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Case # 56 Object (real) evidence

G.R. No. 93980 June 27, 1994


CLEMENTE
vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS, PRIMO AGAWIN and DOMYAAN APED, respondents.

CALDE, petitioner,

Nestor P. Mondok for petitioner.


Lazaro Padong for private respondents.
PUNO, J.:
This is a petition for review by certiorari of the Decision, dated March 27, 1990, of the Court of appeals 1 in CA-G.R. CV No. 19071, disallowing probate
of the Last Will and Codicil executed by Calibia Lingdan Bulanglang, who died on March 20, 1976.
The records show that decedent left behind nine thousand pesos (P9,000.00) worth of property. She also left a Last Will and Testament, dated
October 30, 1972, and a Codicil thereto, dated July 24, 1973. Both documents contained the thumbmarks of decedent. They were also signed by
three (3) attesting witnesses each, and acknowledged before Tomas A. Tolete, then the Municipal Judge and Notary Public Ex-Officio of Bauko, Mt.
Province.
Nicasio Calde, the executor named in the will, filed a Petition for its allowance before the RTC of Bontoc, Mt. Province, Br. 36. 2 He died during the
pendency of the proceedings, and was duly substituted by petitioner. Private respondents, relatives of decedent, opposed the Petitioner filed by
Calde, on the following grounds: that the will and codicil were written in Ilocano, a dialect that decedent did not know; that decedent was mentally
incapacitated to execute the two documents because of her advanced age, illness and deafness; that decedents thumbmarks were procured
through fraud and undue influence; and that the codicil was not executed in accordance with law.
On June 23, 1988, the trial court rendered judgment on the case, approving and allowing decedents will and its codicil. The decision was appealed
to and reversed by the respondent Court of Appeals. It held:
. . . (T)he will and codicil could pass the safeguards under Article 805 of the New Civil Code but for one crucial factor of discrepancy in the
color of ink when the instrumental witnesses affixed their respective signatures. When subjected to cross-examination, Codcodio Nacnas as
witness testified as follows:
Q And all of you signed on the same table?
A Yes, sir.
Q And when you were all signing this Exhibit "B" and "B-1", Exhibit "B" and "B-1" which is the testament was passed around all of you so
that each of you will sign consecutively?
A Yes, sir.
Q Who was the first to sign?
A Calibia Lingdan Bulanglang.
Q After Calibia Lingdan Bulanglang was made to sign I withdraw the question. How did Calibia Lingdan Bulanglang sign the last will
and testament?

A She asked Judge Tolete the place where she will affix her thumbmark so Judge Tolete directed her hand or her thumb to her name.
Q After she signed, who was the second to sign allegedly all of you there present?
A Jose Becyagen.
Q With what did Jose Becyagen sign the testament, Exhibit "B" and "B-1"?
A Ballpen.
Q And after Jose Becyagen signed his name with the ballpen, who was the next to sign?
A Me, sir.
Q And Jose Becyagen passed you the paper and the ballpen, Exhibit "B" and "B-1" plus the ballpen which used to sign so that you
could sign your name, is that correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q And then after you signed, who was the next to sign the document, Exhibit "B" and "B-1"?
A Hilario Coto-ong.
Q So you passed also to Hilario Coto-ong the same Exhibit "B" and "B-1" and the ballpen so that he could sign his name as witness to
the document, is it not?
A Yes, sir.
Q And that is the truth and you swear that to be the truth before the Honorable Court?
ATTY. DALOG:
He already testified under oath, Your Honor.
COURT:
Witness may answer
A Yes, sir.
For his part, Obanan Ticangan likewise admitted during cross-examination in regard to the codicil that:
Q When you signed Exhibit "D" and "D-1", did you all sign with the same ballpen?
A One.
Such admissions from instrumental witnesses are indeed significant since they point to no other conclusion than that the documents were not
signed by them in their presence but on different occasions since the same ballpen used by them supposedly in succession could not have
produced a different color from blue to black and from black to blue. In fact, the attestation clause followed the same pattern. The absurd
sequence was repeated when they signed the codicil, for which reason, We have no other alternative but to disallow the Last Will and
Codicil. Verily, if the witnesses and testatrix used the same ballpen, then their signatures would have been in only one color, not in various
ones as shown in the documents. Moreover, the signatures, in different colors as they are, appear to be of different broadness, some being
finer than the others, indicating that, contrary to what the testamentary witnesses declared on the witness stand, not only one ballpen was
used, and, therefore, showing that the documents were not signed by the testatrix and instrumental witnesses in the presence of one
another. . . " (Rollo, pp. 44-46. Citations omitted.)

Petitioner unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration of the impugned Decision. His motion was denied by the respondent court in its Order, dated
May 24, 1990.
Thus, this appeal by petitioner who now puts in issue the correctness of the respondent courts conclusion that both decedents will and codicil were
not subscribed by the witnesses in the presence of the testator and of one another, contrary to the requirements of Article 805 of the Civil Code. He
contends that:
1. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE IN A WAY NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW OR WITH THE
APPLICABLE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT BY CONCLUDING BASED ON PURE SPECULATION OR SURMISES AND WITHOUT REGARD
TO THE TESTIMONY OF JUDGE TOLETE WHICH IS AN EVIDENCE OF SUBSTANCE THAT THE WILL AND THE CODICIL OF THE LATE CALIBIA
LINGDAN BULANGLANG WERE SIGNED BY HER AND BY HER INSTRUMENTAL WITNESSES ON DIFFERENT OCCASIONS;
2. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE IN A WAY NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW OR WITH THE
APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT BY DISREGARDING THE PROBATIVE VALUE OF THE ATTESTATION CLAUSES OF THE LAST
WILL AND TESTAMENT AND THE CODICIL OF THE LATE CALIBIA LINGDAN BULANGLANG.
The petition must fail.
The question in the case at bench is one of fact: whether or not, based on the evidence submitted, respondent appellate court erred in concluding
that both decedents Last Will and Testament, and its Codicil were subscribed by the instrumental witnesses on separate occasions. As a general
rule, factual findings of the Court of Appeals are considered final and conclusive, and cannot be reviewed on appeal to this court. In the present
instance, however, there is reason to make an exception to that rule, since the finding of the respondent court is contrary to that of the trial
court, viz.:
. . . (Private respondents) pointed out however, that the assertions of petitioners witnesses are rife with contradictions, particularly the
fact that the latters signatures on the documents in issue appear to have been written in ballpens of different colors contrary to the
statements of said witnesses that all of them signed with only one ballpen. The implication is that the subscribing witnesses to the Will
and Codicil, and the testatrix did not simultaneously sign each of the documents in one sitting but did it piecemeal a violation of
Art. 805 of the Code. This conclusion of the (private respondents) is purely circumstantial. From this particular set of facts, numerous
inferences without limits can be drawn depending on which side of the fence one is on. For instance, considering the time interval
that elapsed between the making of the Will and Codicil, and up to the filing of the petition for probate, the possibility is not remote
that one or two of the attesting witnesses may have forgotten certain details that transpired when they attested the documents in
question . . . (Rollo, pp. 36-37.)
A review of the facts and circumstances upon which respondent Court of Appeals based its impugned finding, however, fails to convince us that
the testamentary documents in question were subscribed and attested by the instrumental witnesses during a single occasion.
As sharply noted by respondent appellate court, the signatures of some attesting witnesses in decedents will and its codicil were written in blue ink,
while the others were in black. This discrepancy was not explained by petitioner. Nobody of his six (6) witnesses testified that two pens were used by
the signatories on the two documents. In fact, two (2) of petitioners witnesses even testified that only one (1) ballpen was used in signing the two
testamentary documents.
It is accepted that there are three sources from which a tribunal may properly acquire knowledge for making its decisions, namely: circumstantial
evidence, testimonial evidence, and real evidence or autoptic proference. Wigmore explains these sources as follows:
If, for example, it is desired to ascertain whether the accused has lost his right hand and wears an iron hook in place of it, one source
of belief on the subject would be the testimony of a witness who had seen the arm; in believing this testimonial evidence, there is an
inference from the human assertion to the fact asserted. A second source of belief would be the mark left on some substance
grasped or carried by the accused; in believing this circumstantial evidence, there is an inference from the circumstance to the thing

producing it. A third source of belief remains, namely, the inspection by the tribunal of the accuseds arm. This source differs from the
other two in omitting any step of conscious inference or reasoning, and in proceeding by direct self-perception, or autopsy.
It is unnecessary, for present purposes, to ask whether this is not, after all, a third source of inference, i.e., an inference from the
impressions or perceptions of the tribunal to the objective existence of the thing perceived. The law does not need and does not
attempt to consider theories of psychology as to the subjectivity of knowledge or the mediateness of perception. It assumes the
objectivity of external nature; and, for the purposes of judicial investigation, a thing perceived by the tribunal as existing does exist.
There are indeed genuine cases of inference by the tribunal from things perceived to other things unperceived as, for example,
from a persons size, complexion, and features, to his age; these cases of a real use of inference can be later more fully distinguished .
. . But we are here concerned with nothing more than matters directly perceived for example, that a person is of small height or is
of dark complexion; as to such matters, the perception by the tribunal that the person is small or large, or that he has a dark or light
complexion, is a mode of acquiring belief which is independent of inference from either testimonial or circumstantial evidence. It is
the tribunals self-perception, or autopsy, of the thing itself.
From the point of view of the litigant party furnishing this source of belief, it may be termed Autoptic Proference. 3 (Citations omitted.)
In the case at bench, the autoptic proference contradicts the testimonial evidence produced by petitioner. The will and its codicil, upon inspection
by the respondent court, show in black and white or more accurately, in black and blue that more than one pen was used by the signatories
thereto. Thus, it was not erroneous nor baseless for respondent court to disbelieve petitioners claim that both testamentary documents in question
were subscribed to in accordance with the provisions of Art. 805 of the Civil Code.
Neither did respondent court err when it did not accord great weight to the testimony of Judge Tomas A. Tolete. It is true that his testimony contains
a narration of how the two testamentary documents were subscribed and attested to, starting from decedents thumbmarking thereof, to the
alleged signing of the instrumental witnesses thereto in consecutive order. Nonetheless, nowhere in Judge Toletes testimony is there any kind of
explanation for the different-colored signatures on the testaments.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the instant Petition for Review is DENIED. The Decision of respondent Court of Appeals, dated March 27, 1988, in CA-G.R. CV No.
19071 disallowing the Last Will and Testament, and the Codicil thereto, of the decedent Calibia Lingdan Bulanglang is AFFIRMED IN TOTO. Costs
against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

Case # 57 Object (real) evidence


G.R. No. 108722 December 9, 1997
PEOPLE
OF
vs.
ERLINDA CARREON y PRECIA, accused-appellant.

THE

PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,

FRANCISCO, J.:
Appellant Erlinda P. Carreon was charged with and convicted of violating Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous
Drugs Act of 1972, by the Regional Trial Court 1 and meted "the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of Twenty Thousand Pesos, and to [pay] the
cost." 2 Dissatisfied, appellant interposed the present appeal anchored on an interrelated assignment of errors, jointly discussed in her brief, which
dwell on the alleged (1) insufficiency of evidence to prove her guilt; (2) erroneous admission in evidence of the bundles of marijuana, and (3) failure
of the trial court to give any brobative value on the supposed affidavit of desistance of the apprehending officers and on her defense of denial. 3
The facts of the case, aptly narrated by the Office of the Solicitor General and which we have verified to be duly supported by the record, are as
follows:
At around 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon of July 30, 1990, a passenger jeepney in which herein appellant was riding was flagged down at a
checkpoint manned by elements of the Philippine Constabulary in Lamut, Ifugao province. In accordance with orders from their
headquarters, a search was made on the jeepney as well as its passenger. The search was conducted by C2C Melchor Rivera and C2C
Samuel Bulahao, who was himself a passenger of the same jeepney (TSN, supra, pp. 3-4).
At the time the search was being conducted, herein appellant and her companion Armina de Monteverde were seated side by side
immediately behind the driver. The bags and personal belongings of the passengers were individually searched by the constables. As a
result of said search, a small wrap of marijuana was found in the handbag of herein appellant, while a larger bundle consisting of four wraps
was found in a jute sack located beside her, approximately one foot away from her feet (Tsn, supra, pp. 4-7.)
As a result thereof, appellant and her companion were arrested and their bags containing the marijuana were confiscated. The seized
items were all later turned over to the Provincial Command (TSN, supra, pp. 14-15). The accused were later taken to the PC Headquarters in
Lagawe where they were investigated and subsequently detained (TSN, March 12, 1992, p. 12).
Upon investigation by the forensic chemist assigned at the Crime Laboratory at Camp Dangwa, the items seized from appellant were
confirmed to be marijuana (TSN, May 22, 1991, p. 4).
The appellant, together with her companion Armina de Monteverde, were subsequently charged with violation of R.A. 6425, as amended.
On arraignment, both entered pleas of not guilty. After trial on the merits, the trial court found herein appellant guilty as charged while
Armina de Monteverde was acquitted [on the ground that the prosecution failed to convincingly prove the existence of conspiracy
between the two accused]. 4
The appeal is not impressed with merit; hence we affirm the conviction.
Appellant harps on the failure of the prosecution to present as evidence her handbag from where the marijuana leaves were taken and assails C2C
Rivera's inconsistent testimony where on one part he declared that the bag was turned over to the Provincial Headquarters while on another portion
he said that appellant took it. The argument is unpersuasive. Appellant seems to have lost sight of the fact that her convict ion was not premised on
the presence or absence of the bag, but on her apprehension in flagrante delicto, i.e., while in the possession of and transporting the prohibited
drugs. The non-presentation of the bag does not debilitate the case for the prosecution. The alleged inconsistency in the testimony of C2C Rivera,

on the other hand, is inconsequential. The testimony, we note, is unmistakably clear that the bag was forwarded to the Provincial Headquarters from
where appellant took the same. In addition, minor inconsistencies do not discredit but rather strengthen the testimony of a witness as they erase any
suspicion of a rehearsed testimony. 5 The alleged insufficiency of evidence, therefore, is more imagined than real.
Anent appellant's averment that the bundles of marijuana were erroneously admitted in evidence as C2C Rivera failed to immediately submit the
marijuana leaves for laboratory examination and, in fact, it was not he who actually brought the specimen to the Crime Laboratory, suffice it to say
that there is no rule requiring the apprehending officer to personally deliver the prohibited drug to the Crime Laboratory for testing. What is important
is that the transmittal of the specimen , as in this case, was not vitiated by irregularity or fraud to cast doubt on the authenticity and source of the
subject specimen. Moreover, the subject marijuana leaves taken from the appellant were duly identified by C2C Rivera, the apprehending officer
and Lt. Ong, the chemist assigned at Dangwa Crime Laboratory where the specimen was brought for testing. In the absence of evidence to
indicate that these witnesses were moved by improper motive, their testimony is entitled to full faith and credit. 6 Besides, the presumption of
regularity in the conduct of their duties accorded by law 7 was not at all overthrown by contrary evidence.
In an apparent attempt to discredit the prosecution's witnesses, appellant invites the court's attention to an affidavit of desistance purportedly
executed by C2C Rivera and C2C Bulahao. We are not persuaded as the said affidavit appears to be an afterthought. Apart from the fact that
retractions are exceedingly unreliable 8 and looked upon with considerable disfavor by the courts 9, the trial court rightly observed that the signatures
appearing thereon were forgeries. Thus:
First, comparison on the real evidence or autoptic proference on record consisting of signatures of the affiant witness Melchor E.
Rivera, appearing in the joint affidavit in support of the criminal complaint found on page 2 of the records, and the signature of said
witness marked as Exhibit "3-C" appearing in Exhibit 3, Joint Affidavit of Desistance found on page 5 of the records visibly show to the
naked eye that the said two signatures are entirely different, revealing the fact that the alleged signature of the alleged affiant
Melchor Rivera appearing in the contested document Exhibit 3 and 3-A was written by a person other than the true and real Melchor
E. Rivera, the witness for the prosecution in the instant case. In other words, the signature marked as Exhibit "3-C" appearing in Exhibit
"3" is a forgery.
Second, it is quite surprising and lamentable to say the least, that an L.L.B. graduate, like the defense witness Revelino Antonio,
professing himself to be a Notary public since 1979 up to the present to have been allegedly satisfied as to his identity of the alleged
affiants by the mere presentation of military ID's of the alleged affiants, for normally a Notary public should satisfy himself as to the true
identity of any person or party to a document that he notarized. His allegation that he did not require them to present their Residence
Certificate because the alleged affiant told him that they do not have, has to be taken with a grain of salt considering that a person
like the witness who is capable of prevaricating on a vital and delicate matter by testifying that the witness Melchor Rivera appeared
before him as Notary Public, claiming to be personally present when the alleged affiant affixed his signature n Exhibit "3", when in truth
and in fact, the said signature is found out to be a forgery is not trustworthy, thereby rendering his entire testimony unworthy of
credence. A witness who is capable of testifying falsely on a forged signature of a person is likewise capable of committing falsehood
on less important details. Consequently, the principle of law "Falsus in, unos-falsus in omnibus squarely jibes with the testimony of the
defenses witness, Revelino Antonio.
xxx xxx xxx
Thirdly, it would be unnatural for the alleged affiants in Exhibit "3" to have voluntarily gone to the residence of Notary Public Evelino
Antonio and requested for the preparation and final execution of the document, and later categorically denied to have executed
any when confronted by the Court during the preliminary investigation, which only goes to show that it was fraudulently prepared, a
fact reinforced by the act of policeman Daniel Dominong who accordingly to witness Revelino Antonio was the one who paid later
the Notarial fee for no apparent reason at all, a circumstance showing that there was something fishy in the preparation of the
document Exhibit "3", which confirmed the version of the alleged affiants that they did not in truth and in fact appear before any
notary public.

More importantly, the veracity of the affidavit in question is now academic since C2C Rivera himself appeared as a witness for the
prosecution; hence, reliance on his alleged affidavit of desistance which he disowned is wanting in merit.
Further, appellant's argument that her defense of denial and her witnesses' testimony should be given credence deserve scant consideration.
Findings of fact of the trial court, especially its assessment on the credibility of witnesses, are not disturbed on appeal except when the trial court has
overlooked, ignored, or disregard some fact or circumstance of weight or significance which if considered would have altered the result, 10 an
instance absent in this case. Besides, appellant's denial does not inspire belief. With approval, we quote the following disquisition of the trial court:
In summation, the Court is of the considered view, that the defense of denial interposed by the accused is flimsy and preposterous
which finding and conclusion of the Court finds its source and strength from the very purpose advanced by accused Erlinda Carreon
in going to Hapao, Hungduan and later to O-ong, Banaue, two places in the province of Ifugao noted and taken judicial notice of by
this Court to be great source of marijuana leaves. The accused Erlina Carreon assisted earlier, a total stranger allegedly went to
Hapao, Hungduan, Ifugao a far flunged placed to see one Fidel, her alleged companion who applied in going abroad. Such an
allegation is highly unbelievable for the accused does not even know and cannot tell the Court the family name of that Fidel. All the
more, that belies her alleged purpose in going to those places is the fact that it runs counter to the ordinary course of things or event
for normally, it would be this Fidel who would have taken interest in going to Metro Manila and verify for himself the status of his
alleged application for abroad, if there was indeed any, not the accused going to Hapao, Hungduan, Ifugao to look for Fidel whose
relationship to the accused was not even shown by evidence, as a matter of fact, he does not even know the family name of this
Fidel, neither is there a showing that the accused is a legal recruiter of any recruitment agency to create an apparent semblance of
truth of her alleged purpose in going to see the person Fidel.
Anent
the
purpose
of
the
accused
Erlinda
Carreon
in
going
to
O-ong, Banaue, Ifugao as elsewhere stated herein earlier, is highly incredible. A scrutiny of the testimony of the testimony of accused
Erlinda Carreon would seem to suggest that these Liza Antonio and Rosa Kindipan are intimately related to her. Assuming the
relationship to be such, it is strange that said persons would address and course their letter to the accused at O-ong, Banaue, Ifugao,
a far away place from her alleged residence at Miguelin, Sampaloc, Manila. At most, the logical and reasonable course of action to
have been taken by the said accused is for her to have given her city address to them, which for purposes of convenience and
expediency, could be at the ideal place where to address and course their alleged intended and expected letter from the two
informing the accused Carreon of a possible job placement or employment abroad. All the moren (sic) nugatory to accused
Carreon's alleged purpose in going to Hapao and O-ong is the fact that to a reasonable mind, the prudent course of action for her to
have done is to write these Rita Antonio and Rosa Kindipan and/or go to the placement agency concerned, or to the Office of the
POEA, to verify the status of her alleged application for abroad, if any, instead of going to two places.
The foregoing facts and circumstances indubitably show that the version of the accused Erlinda Carreoin (sic) is self-serving being the
product or a concoction so flimsy to deserve the slightest consideration of this Court, and cannot be given greater evidentiary weight
that the positive testimony of the witness C2C Melchor Rivera. 11
Denial constitutes self-serving negative evidence which can not be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the declarations of the
prosecution witnesses testifying on affirmative matters. 12
Appellant in this case was convicted and meted the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twenty thousand pesos under Rep . Act No. 6425 for
transporting more or less six (6) kilos of marijuana on July 1990. Rep. Act No. 7659, which took effect on December 31, 1993, amended the provisions
of Rep. Act No. 6425, increasing the imposable penalty for the sale or transport of 750 grams or more of marijuana to reclusion perpetua to death
and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos. Such penalty is not favorable to the appellant as it carries the accessory
penalties provided under the Revised Penal Code and had a higher amount of fine which in accordance with Article 22 of the same Code should
not be given retroactive effect. The Court, therefore, finds and so holds that the penalty of life imprisonment and fine in the amount of twenty
thousand pesoscorrectly imposed by the trial court should be retained.

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.


SO ORDERED.

Case # 58 Object (real) evidence


G.R. No. 170300

February 9, 2007

BARTOLOME
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and PABLO YAMAT, Respondents.

BALINGIT, Petitioner,

DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Pablo Yamat (Yamat) was declared the elected Punong Barangay of Nigui, Masantol, Pampanga, in the last July 28, 2002 barangay elections, with
Yamat obtaining 257 votes, and his opponent, Bartolome Balingit (Balingit), 250 votes.
Balingit filed an election protest with the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Macabebe-Masantol, Macabebe, Pampanga, alleging fraud in the
counting and preparation of the election returns. After revision of the ballots, the tally turned out with Balingit still having 250 votes, while Yamat had
255 votes.
Thereafter, in a Decision dated September 24, 2003, the MCTC declared Balingit as the duly elected punongbarangay, with the following
tabulation:1
Precinct Nos.

Balingit

Yamat

53-A

64

16

54-A

52

55-A

87

13

56-A

11

57 (97+1-41)

57-A

16 (17-1)

48 (63+1-16)

58-A

19

34 (62+1-29)

Total Votes

249

172

The MCTC invalidated a total of 86 ballots cast in Precinct Nos. 56-A, 57-A, and 58-A, and credited three separate votes cast in these three precincts,
resulting in 172 votes cast in Yamat's favor. On the other hand, the MCTC discredited in Balingit's favor one vote cast in Precinct No. 57-A for having
been a marked ballot, reducing the latter's number of votes to 249.

Yamat appealed to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).


On the other hand, Balingit filed a Motion for Execution Pending Appeal of the MCTC Decision which was granted by the COMELEC Second Division
in its Order dated January 26, 2005.2
On April 11, 2005, the COMELEC Second Division rendered its Resolution on Yamat's appeal, reversing the MCTC Decision. The dispositive portion of
the Resolution reads:
ACCORDINGLY, the Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Macabebe-Masantol, Macabebe, Pampanga, inElection Case No. 02(01) declaring
appellee Bartlome [sic] Balingit the duly elected Punong Barangay ofBarangay Nigui, Masantol, Pampanga, during the 2002 Barangay Elections is
hereby REVERSED.
Let the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) implement this Resolution.
SO ORDERED.3
The COMELEC Second Division validated 80 out of the 86 ballots previously invalidated by the MCTC and counted them in favor of Yamat, while the
other six ballots remained invalid. The six ballots were as follows:
Precinct No.

Exhibit Nos.

56-A

B44
B45
B5
B7

58-A

135
136

Thus, a total of 252 votes were considered in favor of Yamat, with Balingit still having the same number of votes 249.
COMELEC Commissioner Mehol K. Sadain, however, registered his dissent on the Commission's findings with regard to six other ballots, namely:
Exhibits B-3, B-6, B-41, B-72, B-137, and B-138. These six ballots were among the 86 ballots previously invalidated by the MCTC but were held to be
valid by the Commission. It was Commissioner Sadain's view that these ballots appear to have been written by one person and should have been
invalidated and not credited in favor of Yamat. Thus, only a total of 246 votes should be credited in favor of Yamat, making Balingit, with 249 votes,
the winner by a margin of three votes.4
Balingit filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the COMELEC Resolution with the COMELEC En Banc but it was denied per Resolution dated November
12, 2005. The dispositive portion of the Resolution reads:
WHEREFORE in view of the foregoing, the Commission En Banc DENIES the Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merits. The Resolution of the Second
Division promulgated [on] April 11, 2005 is hereby AFFIRMED. The proclamation of PABLO YAMAT as Punong Barangay of Barangay Nigui, Masantol,
Pampanga is UPHELD.
ACCORDINGLY, the Commission EN BANC hereby ORDERS:

1. Appellee BARTOLOME BALINGIT to VACATE the contested post which he assumed by virtue of the Order of the Second Division dated
January 26, 2005 granting execution pending appeal, in favor of PABLO YAMAT and to CEASE and DESIST from performing the functions
attached to said office.
2. The Deputy Executive Director for operations of the Commission to furnish a copy thereof to the Office of the President of the Philippines,
the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Office of the Secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan, Masantol,
Pampanga.
Considering the proximity of the end of the term of the contested office in this case, this resolution is hereby declared immediately executory.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.5
Balingit filed before the Court a Petition for Certiorari on the following grounds:
A. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION, WHEN IT LIMITED AND FOCUSED
ONLY ITSELF FROM CONDUCTING AN ALLEGED "EXAMINATION OF BALLOTS" WHICH ARE THE SUBJECT OF COMMISSIONER MEHOL K. SADAIN'S
DISSENTING OPINION, BUT DID NOT EXAMINE THE ENTIRE BALLOTS AND EVIDENCE SUBJECT OF BALINGIT'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION.
B. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION, WHEN IT MISLED THE PARTIES TO
JUSTIFY THE IMMEDIATE EXECUTION OF ITS ASSAILED RESOLUTIONS IN HOLDING THAT "PROXIMITY OF THE END OF TERM OF THE CONTESTED
OFFICE IN THIS CASE" WHEN IN TRUTH, THE TERM OF OFFICE OF THE BARANGAY OFFICIALS ELECTED ON JULY 15, 2002 HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO
LAST MONDAY OF OCTOBER 2007 BY REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9340, APPROVED ON 22 SEPTEMBER 2005
C. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION WHEN IT PROMULGATED ITS
ASSAILED 11 APRIL 2005 RESOLUTION WITHOUT CONSIDERING THE STRONG AND VALID OBJECTIONS OF BALINGIT ON THE CONTESTED BALLOTS,
AS CORRECTLY RULED BY THE TRIAL COURT, THAT THOSE CONTESTED BALLOTS OF PABLO YAMAT WILL CLEARLY REVEAL THAT MOST, IF NOT ALL
ARE GROUPS OF BALLOTS WRITTEN BY ONE AND THE SAME PERSON (WBO) AND SINGLE BALLOTS WRITTEN BY TWO PERSONS (WBT).
D. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF AND EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION WHEN IT PROMULGATED ITS
ASSAILED 11 APRIL 2005 RESOLUTION IN SWEEPINGLY VALIDATING THE EIGHTY (80) CONTESTED BALLOTS OF YAMAT, WHICH THE TRIAL COURT
CORRECTLY RULED AS GROUPS OF BALLOTS WRITTEN BY ONE AND THE SAME PERSON (WBO), WHOSE FINDINGS/RULINGS THEREON DO NOT
CLEARLY AND DISTINCTLY EXPRESSED [sic] THE FACTS AND THE LAW ON WHICH THEY WERE BASED. 6
Grave abuse of discretion means such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is
not enough. It must be grave, as when it is exercised arbitrarily or despotically by reason of passion or personal hostility. Such abuse must be so
patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation
of law.7
In this case, Balingit laments the manner in which the COMELEC, both the Second Division and En Banc, resolved the issue on the contested ballots,
arguing that it committed grave abuse discretion when it merely limited itself to the six ballots that Commissioner Sadain found to be invalid, that it
did not consider his arguments on the invalidity of all the contested ballots and "sweepingly" validated these ballots without setting forth the basis,
and that it erroneously justified the immediate execution of the decision.
A review by the Court of the assailed Resolution dated April 11, 2005 rendered by the COMELEC's Second Division and Resolution dated November
12, 2005 of the COMELEC En Banc failed to establish any grave abuse of discretion such that these Resolutions should be set aside.
The appreciation of the contested ballots and election documents involves a question of fact best left to the determination of the COMELEC, a
specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections all over the country, as it is the constitutional commission vested with the exclusive

original jurisdiction over election contests involving regional, provincial and city officials, as well as appellate jurisdiction over election protests
involving elective municipal and barangay officials. In the absence of grave abuse of discretion or any jurisdictional infirmity or error of law, the
factual findings, conclusions, rulings, and decisions rendered by the said Commission on matters falling within its competence shall not be interfered
with by this Court.8
The MCTC originally found a total of 86 ballots cast in favor of Yamat in Precinct Nos. 56-A, 57-A, and 58-A as invalid for having been written by only
one person. Both the COMELEC Second Division and En Banc, however, nullified the MCTC's findings on 80 of these ballots and found them to be
valid.
It is fallacious for Balingit to argue that the COMELEC "sweepingly" validated the contested ballots and did not take into consideration his objections
thereto, and that the COMELEC did not clearly set out the basis for its findings, as the assailed Resolution dated April 11, 2005 shows otherwise. The
COMELEC's Second Division, in fact, physically examined each set or pair of contested ballots and accordingly made its corresponding factual
findings, viz.:9
Precinct
No.

Exhibit No.

Commissions Finding/Ruling

56A

B2,
B39,
B44,
B51,
B56,
B61,
B67,
B70,
B75,
B83

Contrary to the finding of the trial


court, these ballots are valid. The
differences in strokes, writing styles,
dents, alignment of letters, color of
ink used and the point of the pen
are glaring.

B8,
B40,
B45,
B54,
B57,
B65,
B68,
B72,
B80

B16
B41,
B50,
B55
B58,
B66,
B69,
B74,
and

We found however Exhibit Nos. B44


and B45 as pair of ballots written by
one person. The Minutes of Voting
and Counting does not show that
there was a physically disabled or
illiterate voter assisted during the
voting. We cannot therefore
uphold the validity of these ballots.

B53, B73, B78, Valid


B79 and B81
Strokes are different.

ballots

B3, B4, B5, B6 Exhibit Nos. B3, B4 and B6 are valid


and B7
ballots.
However, Exhibit Nos. B5 and
B7 are two (2) ballots that could
hardly be considered valid. The
similarities in strokes, handwriting,

dents, color of the ink and pen


point, and the spacing of letter are
so obvious to the naked eye.
B21 and B22

Valid
ballots
The dents and scratches, the
alignment and the spacing of the
letters are different.

B29 and B30

Valid
ballots
The strokes, terminals and loops of
the letters are strikingly different,
specifically the way the letters Y, L,
D and Z is written.

57A

B86, B87, B88 Valid


ballots
B91,
B113, Writing styles, strokes and dents of
B114
the letters are strikingly different.
B115,
B116,
B117,
B118,
B119,
B121,
B122,
B128
and B129

58A

B135,
B142,
B144,
B161,
B163,
B165,
B167,
B182,
B192
B196

B136,
B143,
B153,
B162,
B164,
B166,
B168,
B186,
and

Exhibit Nos. 135 and 136 are invalid


ballots for their obvious similarities in
handwriting, strokes or dents and
scratches of letters. They are
undoubtedly
written
by
one
person. No illiterate or physically
disables voter had been assisted
during the voting as manifested by
the Minutes of Voting and
Counting duly issued by the
members of the Board of Election
Tellers.
The rest of the contested ballots
are valid.

B137
B138

and Valid
ballots.
These ballots were all written in
script but the dissimilarities in the
strokes, loops, connecting and
spurs
are
evident.
The handwriting of different people
may appear to bear a marked
resemblance to each other,
although, on analysis of the
structure of the master patterns
can be shown to be quite
distinctive and unlikely to be
confused.

B139,
B140 Valid
ballots
and B150
See ruling in Exhibit Nos. 137 and
138 above.
B157
B158

and Valid
ballots
The strokes, dents and spacing of
letters are not similar.

B159
B160

and Valid
ballots
We do not see any fluency and
rhythm in the handwriting evidently
showing
that
they
were
accomplished by only one person.

The total votes obtained by appellant and appellee based on the rulings discussed above are now as follows:
Appellant
Number
of
Votes
Decision of the Trial Court

Per 172

Plus: Number of Votes Validated by 80


the Commission

Appellee
249

Minus: Number of Votes Invalidated 69


by the Commission

Equals: Total Number of


Obtained from All Precincts

249

Votes 252

And, contrary to Balingits allegations in the petition, the COMELEC En Banc conducted its own examination of the ballots and did not limit itself only
to the six ballots that were validated, subject matter of the dissent of Commissioner Sadain, thus:
The Commission En Banc could have conveniently upheld the dispositions of the Division and declared the same as appropriate finding of facts.
However, considering that Presiding Commisioner Mehol K. Sadain dissented therefrom and manifested his different appreciation of the ballots, the
Commission En Banc conducted its own examination of the ballots to arrive at a judicious determination.
Hereunder are our findings:
Precinct No. 56A
The Commission En Banc AFFIRMS the rulings of the Second Division declaring as INVALID only the ballots marked as Exhs. B44 and B45, B5 and
B7. The similarities in the handwritings in these ballots were glaringly similar that there is sufficient reason to believe that these two ballots were
prepared by only one person.
The other ballots alleged as prepared in sets or groups by only one person must be considered VALID. The Division correctly cited in the Resolution
Silverio v. Castro as the basis of its rulings. It is therein taught:
In order to reach the conclusion that two writings are by the same hand there must be not only be present class characteristics but also individual
characteristics or "dents and scratches" in sufficient quantity to exclude the theory of accidental coincidence; to reach the conclusion that writings
are by different hands, we may find numerous likenesses in class characteristics but divergences in individual characteristics, or we may find
divergences in both, but the divergence must be something more than mere superficial differences.
"x x x the rule is simple whatever features two specimen handwriting may have in common, they cannot be considered to be of common
authorship if they display but a single dissimilarity in any feature which is fundamental to the structure of the handwriting and whose presence is not
capable of reasonable explanation." (Silverio v. Castro, 19 SCRA 520)
Putting it simply, where the writings in said ballots were strikingly alike, these ballots must be ruled to be of single authorship and must be rejected.
The Second Division is right in its observation that the handwritings on the questioned ballots were glaringly different and no identical characteristics
are impressive. Indeed, it could justifiably be concluded that the cited ballots were each prepared by the individual voters and not in sets or pairs by
only one person.
Whatever perceived similarities in the handwritings were but pictorial effects and general resemblances which were insufficient to warrant a finding
of single authorship.
Precinct No. 57A
We AFFIRM the Divisions rulings that the ballots questioned as having been written in sets or pairs by one person are VALID because the strokes,
dents, and slants were distinctly different and it could not be justifiably concluded that only one hand prepared the ballots.
Precinct No. 58A

We agree with the Division that only the ballots marked as Exh. Nos. B135 and B136 are INVALID because of the obvious similarities in the strokes,
slants and dents of the handwriting on the ballots.
All the other ballots contested on the allegation that they were written in sets or pairs by only one person did not show remarkable similarities which
could sufficiently warrant a finding that they were written by only one hand.
By the En Bancs own computation, the total number of votes to be credited to Appellant are as follows:
PABLO YAMAT
Votes per physical count - - - - - - - - - - - - - 255
Less:
Votes
Invalidated
By the Division and En Banc - - - - - - - - - -

149
Add: Validated Claims

+3

252
There being no issue as regards the disposition on the ballots of Balingit, The Commission En Banc left the findings of the Trial Court and the Second
Division that Bartolome Balingit obtained a total of 249 votes, undisturbed.10
Based on its own physical assessment of the contested ballots, the COMELEC En Banc agreed with the Division's conclusions that the invalidity of
Exhibits Nos. B-44, B-45, B-5, B-7, B-135, and B-136 should be sustained, while the other ballots shall remain valid.11
Balingit also appears to be in awe of the MCTC's disquisition on the invalidity of these ballots, quoting the MCTC's use of the term "autoptic
proference" in maintaining that its rulings on the objections and claims of the parties is the valid ruling. 12 Autoptic proference, in legal parlance,
simply means a tribunal's self-perception, or autopsy, of the thing itself.13 The COMELEC may not have used such a high-sounding term, nevertheless,
it does not follow that it did not examine the ballots or that its findings were flawed.
The Court cannot imagine how Balingit can argue as he did when the foregoing findings clearly show that all the 86 contested ballots were
physically examined by the COMELEC, and the basis for upholding the validity of 80 of these ballots was sufficiently established. The Court also
cannot find any salient distinction between the MCTC's and the COMELEC's treatment of these ballots such that the MCTC's findings should outweigh
the COMELEC's. Both tribunals physically examined the contested ballots and made their respective findings thereon. The divergence lies in the
physical and actual appreciation and interpretation of the perceived defects in the ballots, and it need not be stressed that given that the
COMELEC is the specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections all over the country, 14 which the framers of the Constitution intended to
place on a level higher than statutory administrative organs, its factual finding is binding on the Court. 15

Balingit wants the Court to consider in his favor the six ballots that Commissioner Sadain opined to be invalid and should not be credited to Yamat,
thus giving him an edge of three votes, i.e. 249 as against Yamat's 246, and making him the victor. Suffice it to say that the COMELEC adequately
explained the reason for holding these six ballots as valid, 16 and absent any evidence to the contrary, the appreciation of these ballots by the
COMELEC, acting as a collegial body, should be upheld.17
Finally, with regard to Balingit's view that it was misplaced and misleading for the COMELEC En Banc to justify the immediate execution of its assailed
Resolution dated November 12, 2005, with the proximity of the elections when Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9340 amended R.A. No. 9164 by extending the
term of barangay and sangguniangkabataan until October of 2007; indeed, the Court finds it odd that the COMELEC should justify the immediate
execution of its decision with the "proximity of the elections."
The COMELEC, being the specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections, is presumed to be aware of the passage of R.A. No. 9340. As
Balingit correctly pointed out, R.A. No. 9340 extended the term of barangay andsangguniang kabataan to October 2007, thereby amending R.A.
No. 9164, which initially set the synchronized elections on the last Monday of October three years after the July 15, 2002 elections, i.e., October 2005.
Obviously, the COMELEC cannot refer to the proximity of the October 2005 elections since at the time it issued its November 12, 2005 Resolution, the
elections would have already passed. Neither can the COMELEC refer to the October 2007 elections because it would not then be proximate (or
immediate) because such elections will take place a little less than two years after the issuance of the November 12, 2005 Resolution.
Nevertheless, such mistake will not render the issuance of the assailed Resolutions tainted with any grave abuse of discretion.1awphi1.net
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The proclamation of Pablo Yamat as Punong Barangay of Nigui, Masantol, Pampanga is UPHELD; and the
order for petitioner Bartolome Balingit to vacate, cease and desist from performing the functions attached to said office per COMELEC En
Banc Resolution dated November 12, 2005 isREITERATED.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

Case #59 Photographs; Silent Witness Theory


G.R. Nos. 108280-83 November 16, 1995
ROMEO
SISON,
NILO
PACADAR,
JOEL
TAN,
RICHARD
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

DE

LOS

SANTOS,

and

JOSELITO

TAMAYO,petitioners,

G.R. Nos. 114931-33 November 16, 1995


THE
PEOPLE
OF
THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
ANNIE FERRER, accused, ROMEO SISON, NILO PACADAR, JOEL TAN, RICHARD DE LOS SANTOS, and JOSELITO TAMAYO, accused-appellants.
PUNO, J.:
The case before us occurred at a time of great political polarization in the aftermath of the 1986 EDSA Revolution. This was the time when the newlyinstalled government of President Corazon C. Aquino was being openly challenged in rallies, demonstrations and other public fora by "Marcos
loyalists," supporters of deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Tension and animosity between the two (2) groups sometimes broke into violence.
On July 27, 1986, it resulted in the murder of Stephen Salcedo, a known "Coryista."
From August to October 1986, several informations were filed in court against eleven persons identified as Marcos loyalists charging them with the
murder of Salcedo. Criminal Case No. 86-47322 was filed against Raul Billosos y de Leon and Gerry Nery y Babazon; Criminal Case No. 86-47617
against Romeo Sison y Mejia, Nilo Pacadar y Abe and Joel Tan y Mostero; Criminal Case No. 86-47790 against Richard de los Santos y Arambulo;
Criminal Case No. 86-48538 against Joselito Tamayo y Ortia; and Criminal Case No. 86-48931 against Rolando Fernandez y Mandapat. Also filed
were Criminal Cases Nos. 86-49007 and 86-49008 against Oliver Lozano and Benjamin Nuega as well as Annie Ferrer charging them as accomplices
to the murder of Salcedo.
The cases were consolidated and raffled to the Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIX, Manila. All of the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge and
trial ensued accordingly. The prosecution presented twelve witnesses, including two eyewitnesses, Ranulfo Sumilang and Renato Banculo, and the
police officers who were at the Luneta at the time of the incident. In support of their testimonies, the prosecution likewise presented documentary
evidence consisting of newspaper accounts of the incident and various photographs taken during the mauling.
The prosecution established that on July 27, 1986, a rally was scheduled to be held at the Luneta by the Marcos loyalists. Earlier, they applied for a
permit to hold the rally but their application was denied by the authorities. Despite this setback, three thousand of them gathered at the Rizal
Monument of the Luneta at 2:30 in the afternoon of the scheduled day. Led by Oliver Lozano and Benjamin Nuega, both members of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, the loyalists started an impromptu singing contest, recited prayers and delivered speeches in between. Colonel Edgar Dula
Torres, then Deputy Superintendent of the Western Police District, arrived and asked the leaders for their permit. No permit could be produced.
Colonel Dula Torres thereupon gave them ten minutes to disperse. The loyalist leaders asked for thirty minutes but this was refused. Atty. Lozano
turned towards his group and said "Gulpihin ninyo ang lahat ng mga Cory infiltrators." Atty. Nuega added "Sige, sige gulpihin ninyo!" The police then
pushed the crowd, and used tear gas and truncheons to disperse them. The loyalists scampered away but some of them fought back and threw
stones at the police. Eventually, the crowd fled towards Maria Orosa Street and the situation later stabilized. 1
At about 4:00 p.m., a small group of loyalists converged at the Chinese Garden, Phase III of the Luneta. There, they saw Annie Ferrer, a popular
movie starlet and supporter of President Marcos, jogging around the fountain. They approached her and informed her of their dispersal and Annie
Ferrer angrily ordered them "Gulpihin ninyo and mga Cory hecklers!" Then she continued jogging around the fountain chanting "Marcos pa rin,
Marcos pa rin, Pabalikin si Marcos, Pabalikin si Marcos, Bugbugin ang mga nakadilaw!" The loyalists replied "Bugbugin!" A few minutes later, Annie

Ferrer was arrested by the police. Somebody then shouted "Kailangang gumanti, tayo ngayon!" A commotion ensued and Renato Banculo, a
cigarette vendor, saw the loyalists attacking persons in yellow, the color of the "Coryistas." Renato took off his yellow shirt. 2 He then saw a man
wearing a yellow t-shirt being chased by a group of persons shouting "Iyan, habulin iyan. Cory iyan!" The man in the yellow t-shirt was Salcedo and his
pursuers appeared to be Marcos loyalists. They caught Salcedo and boxed and kicked and mauled him. Salcedo tried to extricate himself from the
group but they again pounced on him and pummelled him with fist blows and kicks hitting him on various parts of his body. Ban culo saw Ranulfo
Sumilang, an electrician at the Luneta, rush to Salcedo's aid. Sumilang tried to pacify the maulers so he could extricate Salcedo from them. But the
maulers pursued Salcedo unrelentingly, boxing him with stones in their fists. Somebody gave Sumilang a loyalist tag which Sumilang showed to
Salcedo's attackers. They backed off for a while and Sumilang was able to tow Salcedo away from them. But accused Raul Billosos emerged from
behind Sumilang as another man boxed Salcedo on the head. Accused Richard de los Santos also boxed Salcedo twice on the head and kicked
him even as he was already fallen. 3 Salcedo tried to stand but accused Joel Tan boxed him on the left side of his head and ear. 4 Accused Nilo
Pacadar punched Salcedo on his nape, shouting: "Iyan, Cory Iyan. Patayin!" 5Sumilang tried to pacify Pacadar but the latter lunged at the victim
again. Accused Joselito Tamayo boxed Salcedo on the left jaw and kicked him as he once more fell. Banculo saw accused Romeo Sison trip
Salcedo and kick him on the head, and when he tried to stand, Sison repeatedly boxed him. 6 Sumilang saw accused Gerry Neri approach the
victim but did not notice what he did. 7
Salcedo somehow managed to get away from his attackers and wipe off the blood from his face. He sat on some cement steps 8 and then tried to
flee towards Roxas boulevard to the sanctuary of the Rizal Monument but accused Joel Tan and Nilo Pacadar pursued him, mauling Sumilang in the
process. Salcedo pleaded for his life exclaiming "Maawa na kayo sa akin. Tulungan ninyo ako." He cried: "Pulis, pulis. Wala bang pulis?" 9
The mauling resumed at the Rizal Monument and continued along Roxas Boulevard until Salcedo collapsed and lost consciousness. Sumilang
flagged down a van and with the help of a traffic officer, brought Salcedo to the Medical Center Manila but he was refused admission. So they took
him to the Philippine General Hospital where he died upon arrival.
Salcedo died of "hemorrhage, intracranial traumatic." He sustained various contusions, abrasions, lacerated wounds and skull fractures as revealed
in the following post-mortem findings:
Cyanosis, lips, and nailbeds.
Contused-abrasions: 6.0 x 2.5 cm., and 3.0 x 2.4 cm., frontal region, right side; 6.8 x 4.2 cm., frontal region, left side; 5.0 x 4.0 cm., right
cheek; 5.0 x 3.5 cm., face, left side; 3.5 x 2.0 cm., nose; 4.0 x 2.1 cm., left ear, pinna; 5.0 x 4.0 cm. left suprascapular region; 6.0 x 2.8
cm., right elbow.
Abrasions: 4.0 x 2.0 cm., left elbow; 2.0 x 1.5 cm., right knee.
Lacerated wounds: 2.2 cm., over the left eyebrow; 1.0 cm., upper lip.
Hematoma, scalp; frontal region, both sides; left parietal region; right temporal region; occipital region, right side.
Fractures, skull; occipital bone, right side; right posterior cranial fossa; right anterior cranial fossa.
Hemorrhage, subdural, extensive.
Other visceral organs, congested.
Stomach, about 1/2 filled with grayish brown food materials and fluid. 10
The mauling of Salcedo was witnessed by bystanders and several press people, both local and foreign. The press took pictures and a video of the
event which became front-page news the following day, capturing national and international attention. This prompted President Aquino to order
the Capital Regional Command and the Western Police District to investigate the incident. A reward of ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) was put up
by Brigadier General Alfredo Lim, then Police Chief, for persons who could give information leading to the arrest of the killers.11 Several persons,

including Ranulfo Sumilang and Renato Banculo, cooperated with the police, and on the basis of their identification, several persons, including the
accused, were apprehended and investigated.
For their defense, the principal accused denied their participation in the mauling of the victim and offered their respective alibis. Accused Joselito
Tamayo testified that he was not in any of the photographs presented by the prosecution 12 because on July 27, 1986, he was in his house in Quezon
City. 13 Gerry
Neri
claimed
that
he
was
at
the
Luneta
Theater
at
the
time
of
the
incident. 14 Romeo Sison, a commercial photographer, was allegedly at his office near the Luneta waiting for some pictures to be developed at that
time. 15 He claimed to be afflicted with hernia impairing his mobility; he cannot run normally nor do things forcefully. 16 Richard de los Santos admits
he was at the Luneta at the time of the mauling but denies hitting Salcedo. 17 He said that he merely watched the mauling which explains why his
face appeared in some of the photographs.18 Unlike the other accused, Nilo Pacadar admits that he is a Marcos loyalist and a member of the Ako'y
Pilipino Movement and that he attended the rally on that fateful day. According to him, he saw Salcedo being mauled and like Richard de los
Santos, merely viewed the incident. 19 His face was in the pictures because he shouted to the maulers to stop hitting Salcedo. 20 Joel Tan also
testified that he tried to pacify the maulers because he pitied Salcedo. The maulers however ignored him. 21
The other accused, specifically Attys. Lozano and Nuega and Annie Ferrer opted not to testify in their defense.
On December 16, 1988, the trial court rendered a decision finding Romeo Sison, Nilo Pacadar, Joel Tan, Richard de los Santos and Joselito Tamayo
guilty as principals in the crime of murder qualified by treachery and sentenced them to 14 years 10 months and 20 days of reclusion temporal as
minimum to 20 years of reclusion temporal as maximum. Annie Ferrer was likewise convicted as an accomplice. The court, however, found that the
prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the other accused and thus acquitted Raul Billosos, Gerry Nery, Rolando Fernandez, Oliver Lozano and
Benjamin Nuega. The dispositive portion of the decision reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgement is hereby rendered in the aforementioned cases as follows:
1. In "People versus Raul Billosos and Gerry Nery," Criminal Case No. 86-47322, the Court finds that the Prosecution failed to prove the
guilt of the two (2) Accused beyond reasonable doubt for the crime charged and hereby acquits them of said charge;
2. In "People versus Romeo Sison, et al.," Criminal Case No. 86-47617, the Court finds the Accused Romeo Sison, Nilo Pacadar and Joel
Tan, guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as principals for the crime of Murder, defined in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, and,
there being no other mitigating or aggravating circumstances, hereby imposes on each of them an indeterminate penalty of from
FOURTEEN (14)YEARS, TEN (10) MONTHS and TWENTY (20) DAYS, of Reclusion Temporal, as minimum, to TWENTY (20) DAYS, of Reclusion
Temporal, as minimum, to TWENTY (20) YEARS ofReclusion Temporal, as Maximum;
3. In "People versus Richard de los Santos," Criminal Case No. 86-47790, the Court finds the Accused Richard de los Santos guilty
beyond reasonable doubt as principal for the crime of Murder defined in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and, there being no
other extenuating circumstances, the Court hereby imposes on him an indeterminate penalty of from FOURTEEN (14) YEARS, TEN (10)
MONTHS and TWENTY (20) DAYS of Reclusion Temporal, as Minimum, to TWENTY (20) YEARS of Reclusion Temporal as Maximum;
4. In "People versus Joselito Tamayo," Criminal Case No. 86-48538 the Court finds the Accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt as
principal, for the crime of "Murder" defined in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby imposes on him an indeterminate
penalty of from FOURTEEN (14) YEARS, TEN (10) MONTHS and TWENTY (20) DAYS of Reclusion Temporal, as Minimum, to TWENTY (20)
YEARS of Reclusion Temporal, as Maximum;
5. In "People versus Rolando Fernandez," Criminal Case No. 86-4893l, the Court finds that the Prosecution failed to prove the guilt of
the Accused for the crime charged beyond reasonable doubt and hereby acquits him of said charge;
6. In "People versus Oliver Lozano, et al.," Criminal Case No. 86-49007, the Court finds that the Prosecution failed to prove the guilt of
the Accused beyond reasonable doubt for the crime charged and hereby acquits them of said charge;

7. In "People versus Annie Ferrer," Criminal Case No. 86-49008, the Court finds the said Accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as
accomplice to the crime of Murder under Article 18 in relation to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby imposes on her
an indeterminate penalty of NINE (9) YEARS and FOUR (4) MONTHS of Prision Mayor, as Minimum to TWELVE (12) YEARS, FIVE (5)
MONTHS and ELEVEN (11) DAYS of Reclusion Temporal, as Maximum.
The Accused Romeo Sison, Nilo Pacadar, Richard de los Santos, Joel Tan, Joselito Tamayo and Annie Ferrer are hereby ordered to
pay, jointly and severally, to the heirs of Stephen Salcedo the total amount of P74,000.00 as actual damages and the amount of
P30,000.00 as moral and exemplary damages, and one-half (1/2) of the costs of suit.
The period during which the Accused Nilo Pacadar, Romeo Sison, Joel Tan, Richard de los Santos and Joselito Tamayo had been
under detention during the pendency of these cases shall be credited to them provided that they agreed in writing to abide by and
comply strictly with the rules and regulations of the City Jail.
The Warden of the City Jail of Manila is hereby ordered to release the Accused Gerry Nery, Raul Billosos and Rolando Fernandez from
the City Jail unless they are being detained for another cause or charge.
The Petition for Bail of the Accused Rolando Fernandez has become moot and academic. The Petition for Bail of the Accused Joel
Tan, Romeo Sison and Joselito Tamayo is denied for lack of merit.
The bail bonds posted by the Accused Oliver Lozano and Benjamin Nuega are hereby cancelled. 22
On appeal, the Court of Appeals 23 on December 28, 1992, modified the decision of the trial court by acquitting Annie Ferrer but increasing the
penalty of the rest of the accused, except for Joselito Tamayo, to reclusion perpetua. The appellate court found them guilty of murder qualified by
abuse of superior strength, but convicted Joselito Tamayo of homicide because the information against him did not allege the said qualifying
circumstance. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, the decision appealed from is hereby MODIFIED as follows:
1. Accused-appellants Romeo Sison y Mejia, Nilo Pacadar y Abe, Joel Tan y Mostero and Richard de los Santos are hereby found
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Murder and are each hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua;
2. Accused-appellant Joselito Tamayo y Oria is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide with the
generic aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength and, as a consequence, an indeterminate penalty of TWELVE (12)
YEARS of prision mayor as Minimum to TWENTY (20) YEARS of reclusion temporal as Maximum is hereby imposed upon him;
3. Accused-appellant Annie Ferrer is hereby ACQUITTED of being an accomplice to the crime of Murder.
CONSIDERING that the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua has been imposed in the instant consolidated cases, the said cases are now
hereby certified to the Honorable Supreme Court for review. 24
Petitioners filed G.R. Nos. 108280-83 under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court inasmuch as Joselito Tamayo was not sentenced to reclusion
perpetua. G.R. Nos. 114931-33 was certified to us for automatic review of the decision of the Court of Appeals against the four accused-appellants
sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
Before this court, accused-appellants assign the following errors:
I
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT NOTED THAT THE ACCUSED FAILED TO CITE ANYTHING ON RECORD TO
SUPPORT THEIR AVERMENT THAT THERE WERE NO WITNESSES WHO HAVE COME FORWARD TO IDENTIFY THE PERSONS RESPONSIBLE FOR
THE DEATH OF STEPHEN SALCEDO.

II
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE UNRELIABLE, DOUBTFUL, SUSPICIOUS AND
INCONCLUSIVE TESTIMONIES OF PROSECUTION WITNESS RANULFO SUMILANG.
III
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS LIKEWISE ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY WHEN THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE TO PROVE
THAT ANY OF THE ACCUSED CARRIED A HARD AND BLUNT INSTRUMENT, THE ADMITTED CAUSE OF THE HEMORRHAGE RESULTING IN THE
DEATH OF THE DECEASED.
IV
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THERE EXISTS CONSPIRACY AMONG THE PRINCIPAL ACCUSED.
V
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE CRIME COMMITTED IS MURDER AND NOT DEATH
(HOMICIDE) CAUSED IN A TUMULTUOUS AFFRAY. 25
In their additional brief, appellants contend that:
I
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN REACHING A CONCLUSION OF FACT UTILIZING SPECULATIONS, SURMISES,
NON-SEQUITUR CONCLUSIONS, AND EVEN THE DISPUTED DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT, TO UPHOLD THE VALIDITY OF THE VERY SAME
JUDGMENT, ALL CONTRARY TO THE RULES OF EVIDENCE.
II
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN ADMITTING EXHIBITS "D", "G", "O", "P", "V", TO "V-48", "W" TO "W-13", ALL OF WHICH WERE
NOT PROPERLY IDENTIFIED.
III
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT CONSPIRACY EXISTED IN THE CASE AT BAR DISREGARDING
ALTOGETHER THE SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE ON THE MATTER.
IV
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE CRIME COMMITTED WAS MURDER, NOT DEATH (HOMICIDE)
IN TUMULTUOUS AFFRAY SIDESTEPPING IN THE PROCESS THE FACTUAL GROUNDS SURROUNDING THE INCIDENT. 26
Appellants mainly claim that the Court of Appeals erred in sustaining the testimonies of the two in prosecution eyewitnesses, Ranulfo
Sumilang and Renato Banculo, because they are unreliable, doubtful and do not deserve any credence. According to them, the testimonies
of these two witnesses are suspect because they surfaced only after a reward was announced by General Lim. Renato Banculo even
submitted three sworn statements to the police geared at providing a new or improved version of the incident. On the witness stand, he
mistakenly identified a detention prisoner in another case as accused Rolando Fernandez. 27 Ranulfo Sumilang was evasive and unresponsive
prompting the trial court to reprimand him several times. 28
There is no proof that Banculo or Sumilang testified because of the reward announced by General Lim, much less that both or either of them ever
received such reward from the government. On the contrary, the evidence shows that Sumilang reported the incident to the police and submitted

his sworn statement immediately two hours after the mauling, even before announcement of any reward.
cooperate with them and identify Salcedo's assailants if he saw them again. 30

29

He informed the police that he would

The fact that Banculo executed three sworn statements does not make them and his testimony incredible. The sworn statements were made to
identify more suspects who were apprehended during the investigation of Salcedo's death. 31
The records show that Sumilang was admonished several times by the trial court on the witness stand for being argumentative and evasive. 32 This is
not enough reason to reject Sumilang's testimony for he did not exhibit this undesirable conduct all throughout his testimony. On the whole, his
testimony was correctly given credence by the trial court despite his evasiveness at some instances. Except for compelling reasons, we cannot
disturb the way trial courts calibrate the credence of witnesses considering their visual view of the demeanor of witnesses when on the witness stand.
As trial courts, they can best appreciate the verbal and non-verbal dimensions of a witness' testimony.
Banculo's mistake in identifying another person as one of the accused does not make him an entirely untrustworthy witness. 33 It does not make his
whole testimony a falsity. An honest mistake is not inconsistent with a truthful testimony. Perfect testimonies cannot be expected from persons with
imperfect senses. In the court's discretion, therefore, the testimony of a witness can be believed as to some facts but disbelieved with respect to the
others. 34
We sustain the appellate and trial courts' findings that the witnesses' testimonies corroborate each other on all important and relevant details of the
principal occurrence. Their positive identification of all petitioners jibe with each other and their narration of the events are supported by the
medical and documentary evidence on record.
Dr. Roberto Garcia, the medico-legal officer of the National Bureau of Investigation, testified that the victim had various wounds on his body which
could have been inflicted by pressure from more than one hard object. 35 The contusions and abrasions found could have been caused by
punches, kicks and blows from rough stones. 36 The fatal injury of intracranial hemorrhage was a result of fractures in Salcedo's skull which may have
been caused by contact with a hard and blunt object such as fistblows, kicks and a blunt wooden instrument. 37
Appellants do not deny that Salcedo was mauled, kicked and punched. Sumilang in fact testified that Salcedo was pummeled by his assailants with
stones in their hands. 38
Appellants also contend that although the appellate court correctly disregarded Exhibits "D," "G," and "P," it erroneously gave evidentiary weight to
Exhibits "O," "V," "V-1" to "V-48," "W," "W-1" to "W-13." 39 Exhibit "O" is the Joint Affidavit of Pat. Flores and Pat. Bautista, the police intelligence-operatives
who witnessed the rally and subsequent dispersal operation. Pat. Flores properly identified Exhibit "O" as his sworn statement and in fact gave
testimony corroborating the contents thereof. 40 Besides, the Joint Affidavit merely reiterates what the other prosecution witnesses testified to.
Identification by Pat. Bautista is a surplusage. If appellants wanted to impeach the said affidavit, they should have placed Pat. Flores on the witness
stand.
Exhibits "V," "V-1" to "V-48" are photographs taken of the victim as he was being mauled at the Luneta starting from a grassy portion to the
pavement at the Rizal Monument and along Roxas Boulevard, 41 as he was being chased by his assailants 42 and as he sat pleading with his
assailants. 43 Exhibits "W", "W-1" to "W-13" are photographs of Salcedo and the mauling published in local newspapers and magazines such as the
Philippine Star, 44 Mr. and Ms. Magazine, 45 Philippine Daily Inquirer, 46 and the Malaya. 47 The admissibility of these photographs is being questioned
by appellants for lack of proper identification by the person or persons who took the same.
The rule in this jurisdiction is that photographs, when presented in evidence, must be identified by the photographer as to its production and testified
as to the circumstances under which they were produced. 48 The value of this kind of evidence lies in its being a correct representation or
reproduction of the original, 49 and its admissibility is determined by its accuracy in portraying the scene at the time of the crime. 50 The
photographer, however, is not the only witness who can identify the pictures he has taken. 51 The correctness of the photograph as a faithful
representation of the object portrayed can be proved prima facie, either by the testimony of the person who made it or by other competent

witnesses, after which the court can admit it subject to impeachment as to its accuracy. 52 Photographs, therefore, can be identified by the
photographer or by any other competent witness who can testify to its exactness and accuracy. 53
This court notes that when the prosecution offered the photographs as part of its evidence, appellants, through counsel Atty. Alfredo Lazaro, Jr.
objected to their admissibility for lack of proper identification. 54 However, when the accused presented their evidence, Atty. Winlove Dumayas,
counsel for accused Joselito Tamayo and Gerry Neri used Exhibits "V", "V-1" to "V-48" to prove that his clients were not in any of the pictures and
therefore could not have participated in the mauling of the victim. 55 The photographs were adopted by appellant Joselito Tamayo and accused
Gerry Neri as part of the defense exhibits. And at this hearing, Atty. Dumayas represented all the other accused per understanding with their
respective counsels, including Atty. Lazaro, who were absent. At subsequent hearings, the prosecution used the photographs to cross-examine all
the accused who took the witness stand. 56 No objection was made by counsel for any of the accused, not until Atty. Lazaro appeared at the third
hearing and interposed a continuing objection to their admissibility.57
The objection of Atty. Lazaro to the admissibility of the photographs is anchored on the fact that the person who took the same was not presented
to identify them. We rule that the use of these photographs by some of the accused to show their alleged non-participation in the crime is an
admission of the exactness and accuracy thereof. That the photographs are faithful representations of the mauling incident was affirmed when
appellants Richard de los Santos, Nilo Pacadar and Joel Tan identified themselves therein and gave reasons for their presence thereat. 58
An analysis of the photographs vis-a-vis the accused's testimonies reveal that only three of the appellants, namely, Richard de los Santos, Nilo
Pacadar and Joel Tan could be readily seen in various belligerent poses lunging or hovering behind or over the victim. 59 Appellant Romeo Sison
appears
only
once
and
he,
although
afflicted
with
hernia
is
shown
merely
running
after
the
victim. 60Appellant Joselito Tamayo was not identified in any of the pictures. The absence of the two appellants in the photographs does not
exculpate them. The photographs did not capture the entire sequence of the killing of Salcedo but only segments thereof. While the pictures did not
record
Sison
and
Tamayo
hitting
Salcedo,
they
were
unequivocally
identified
by
Sumilang
and
Banculo 61Appellants' denials and alibis cannot overcome their eyeball identification.
Appellants claim that the lower courts erred in finding the existence of conspiracy among the principal accused and in convicting them of murder
qualified by abuse of superior strength, not death in tumultuous affray.
Death in a tumultuous affray is defined in Article 251 of the Revised Penal code as follows:
Art. 251. Death caused in a tumultuous affray. When, while several persons, not composing groups organized for the common
purpose of assaulting and attacking each other reciprocally, quarrel and assault each other in a confused and tumultuous manner,
and in the course of the affray someone is killed, and it cannot be ascertained who actually killed the deceased, but the person or
persons who inflicted serious physical injuries can be identified, such person or persons shall be punished by prison mayor.
If it cannot be determined who inflicted the serious physical injuries on the deceased, the penalty ofprision correccional in its medium
and maximum periods shall be imposed upon all those who shall have used violence upon the person of the victim.
For this article to apply, it must be established that: (1) there be several persons; (2) that they did not compose groups organized for the
common purpose of assaulting and attacking each other reciprocally; (3) these several persons quarrelled and assaulted one another in a
confused and tumultuous manner; (4) someone was killed in the course of the affray; (5) it cannot be ascertained who actually killed the
deceased; and (6) that the person or persons who inflicted serious physical injuries or who used violence can be identified. 62
A tumultuous affray takes place when a quarrel occurs between several persons and they engage in a confused and tumultuous affray, in the
course of which some person is killed or wounded and the author thereof cannot be ascertained. 63
The quarrel in the instant case, if it can be called a quarrel, was between one distinct group and one individual. Confusion may have occurred
because of the police dispersal of the rallyists, but this confusion subsided eventually after the loyalists fled to Maria Orosa Street. It was only a while
later after said dispersal that one distinct group identified as loyalists picked on one defenseless individual and attacked him repeatedly, taking turns

in inflicting punches, kicks and blows on him. There was no confusion and tumultuous quarrel or affray, nor was there a reciprocal aggression at this
stage of the incident. 64
As the lower courts found, the victim's assailants were numerous by as much as fifty in number 65 and were armed with stones with which they hit the
victim. They took advantage of their superior strength and excessive force and frustrated any attempt by Salcedo to escape and free himself. They
followed Salcedo from the Chinese Garden to the Rizal Monument several meters away and hit him mercilessly even when he was already fallen on
the ground. There was a time when Salcedo was able to get up, prop himself against the pavement and wipe off the blood from his face. But his
attackers continued to pursue him relentlessly. Salcedo could not defend himself nor could he find means to defend himself. Sumilang tried to save
him from his assailants but they continued beating him, hitting Sumilang in the process. Salcedo pleaded for mercy but they ignored his pleas until he
finally lost consciousness. The deliberate and prolonged use of superior strength on a defenseless victim qualifies the killing to murder.
Treachery as a qualifying circumstance cannot be appreciated in the instant case. There is no proof that the attack on Salcedo was deliberately
and consciously chosen to ensure the assailants' safety from any defense the victim could have made. True, the attack on Salcedo was sudden and
unexpected but it was apparently because of the fact that he was wearing a yellow t-shirt or because he allegedly flashed the "Laban" sign against
the rallyists, taunting them into mauling him. As the appellate court well found, Salcedo had the opportunity to sense the temper of the rallyists and
run away from them but he, unfortunately, was overtaken by them. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack without the
slightest provocation on the part of the person being attacked. 66
The qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation was alleged in the information against Joselito Tamayo. Evident premeditation cannot be
appreciated in this case because the attack against Salcedo was sudden and spontaneous, spurred by the raging animosity against the so-called
"Coryistas." It was not preceded by cool thought and reflection.
We find however the existence of a conspiracy among appellants. At the time they were committing the crime, their actions impliedly showed a
unity of purpose among them, a concerted effort to bring about the death of Salcedo. Where a conspiracy existed and is proved, a showing as to
who among the conspirators inflicted the fatal wound is not required to sustain a conviction. 67 Each of the conspirators is liable for all acts of the
others regardless of the intent and character of their participation, because the act of one is the act of all. 68
The trial court awarded the heirs of Salcedo P74,000.00 as actual damages, P30,000.00 as moral and exemplary damages, and one half of the costs
of the suit. At the time he died on July 27, 1986, Salcedo was twenty three years old and was set to leave on August 4, 1986 for employment in Saudi
Arabia. 69 The reckless disregard for such a young person's life and the anguish wrought on his widow and three small children, 70 warrant an increase
in moral damages from P30,000.00 to P100,000.00. The indemnity of P50,000.00 must also be awarded for the death of the victim. 71
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision appealed from is hereby affirmed and modified as follows:
1. Accused-appellants Romeo Sison, Nilo Pacadar, Joel Tan and Richard de los Santos are found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of
Murder without any aggravating or mitigating circumstance and are each hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua;
2. Accused-appellant Joselito Tamayo is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide with the generic
aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength and, as a consequence, he is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of
TWELVE (12) YEARS of prision mayoras minimum to TWENTY (20) YEARS of reclusion temporal as maximum;
3. All accused-appellants are hereby ordered to pay jointly and severally the heirs of Stephen Salcedo the following amounts:
(a) P74,000.00 as actual damages;
(b) P100,000.00 as moral damages; and
(c) P50,000.00 as indemnity for the death of the victim.

Costs against accused-appellants.


SO ORDERED.

Case #60 Physical Evidence


G.R. No. 71464 August 4, 1988
THE
PEOPLE
vs.
ROMEO ESTREBELLA, accused-appellant.

OF

THE

PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,

PARAS, J.:
Accused Romeo Estrebella pleaded not guilty to the crime of rape allegedly committed as follows:
That on or about the 25th day of October, 1981, in the Municipality of Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force and intimation upon the person of the
undersigned, did, then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the undersigned against her will and
consent.
Contrary to law.
Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.
March 24, 1982.
(Sgd.) JOY ALCALA Y ADVINCULA
Complainant
(p. 4, Rollo)
After due trial, the court, rendered a decision 1 the dispositive portion reading as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered the Court finds accused Romeo Estrebella guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape
and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, to indemnify the complaining witness, Joy Alcala y Advincula,
in the sum of P30,000.00 and to pay the costs.
SO ORDERED. (P. 24, Rollo)
Accused assails said decision, submitting before Us the following:
ARGUMENTS
I
The trial court erred in convicting the accused-appellant of the crime of rape despite the insufficiency of evidence adduced by the
prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
II
The trial court gravely erred in trying the case on ground of lack of jurisdiction. (p. 34, Rollo)
From the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution Dr. Erlinda Marfil, Dr. Maximo Reyes, Fernando Alcala and Wilfredo Davan, the following
facts are gathered:

As per result of the psychiatric and psychological examination conducted by Dr. Erlinda Marfil of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the
person of complainant Joy Alcala y Advincula, it was established that said complainant is a mental retardate (Exhs. "A", "A-1" and "A-2") whose
chronological age is thirteen but her mental age is below that (only six or seven).
When Dr. Maximo Reyes, senior NBI medico-legal officer did a physical and genital examination on the person of the complainant on October 26,
1981, a day after the alleged commission of the offense charged, he found that the outer genitalia (i.e. labia majora and labia minora) showed
healing abrasions on the posterior aspect and the presence of bleeding. An internal examination showed congestion of the posterior of the
vestibular mucosa, meaning there was reddening and inflammation of that particular portion. In ordinary parlance, such irritation in the genitalia of
the complainant could be caused only by the sex organ of a male in erection. Dr. Reyes concluded that the complainant could have had sexual
intercourse with a man on or about the alleged date of commission, however, there was no complete penetration as the hymen was intact, and
elastic. (Exh. "B-3")
Fernando Alcala, brother of the complainant, testified that Romeo Estrebella, is their neighbor. On October 25, 1981 at about 3:00 p.m., as he was
about to take a bath, he saw the accused under the house of Crisanto Cuevas sitting on a long bench with the zipper of his pants opened. He also
saw the legs of a woman around the waist of the accused with the latter making some movements. He did not readily recognize who the woman
was until he went to the faucet and saw accused stand up. Recognizing the female partner of the accused as his mentally retarded sister, witness
Fernando immediately went to where accused was and boxed him. His sister who was frightened ran away while the neighbors tried to pacify
Fernando and Romeo Estrebella. The latter was able to disengage himself from the former, but another brother of complainant, named Armando,
ran after Romeo Estrebella and was able to catch up with him. The two brothers then brought the accused to the police precinct of Mandaluyong.
Fernando's testimony was corroborated by Wilfredo Davan, another witness for the prosecution.
Accused denied that he had sexual intercourse with complainant. Through his testimony as the sole witness for the defense, accused alleged that
while he was resting under the house of his godfather on October 25, 1981 at around 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, Joy Alcala suddenly arrived. He
called her and the latter sat on the bench where he was sitting. He told Joy Alcala to go to the house of his sister to get his clothes as he was going
home to Bulacan. However, she did not go at once because she was asking money from him. While he and Joy were talking, her brother Fernando
Alcala arrived and suddenly hit him. He did not do anything because Fernando was drunk. When he was on his way home, Fernando Alcala and his
brother Armando, stopped him and then boxed him until he fell down. He asked them why they hit him but they did not answer. He further averred
that he used to see Joy Alcala play with her private part by inserting her two fingers. In fact whenever he saw her playing with herself he usually gave
her a spanking.
Appellant's defense is denial of the offense charged. That he did not rape complainant is allegedly supported by the findings of Dr. Maximo Reyes
that there was no tear or laceration in her hymen. He further argues that "(g)ranting arguendo but without admitting that rape is committed, there is
however, no evidence adduced that complainant was forced or intimidated by the accused", or that the sexual intercourse was against her will
and consent but that, it was mutually voluntary, as gleaned from the testimonies of Fernando Alcala and Wilfredo Davan who testified to the effect
that they did not hear any word or conversation between the two (accused and complainant) while performing the sexual act.
Appellant's arguments deserve no consideration.
Based on the medical and physical examination of the genital organ of complainant conducted by Dr. Maximo Reyes (Exh. "B"), Joy Alcala had
sexual intercourse with a man on October 25, 1981 due to the presence of abrasion and congestion and bleeding in the genitalia, a physical
condition consistent with sexual intercourse. Physical evidence is of the highest order and speaks more eloquently than all witnesses put together.
(People vs. ardoje 99 SCRA 388). Furthermore, such medical findings confirm the testimonies of Femando Alcala and Wilfredo Davan that they saw
accused Romeo Estrebella having carnal knowledge with Joy Alcala on said date under the house of Crisanto Cuevas. The fact that the hymen was
not lacerated does not negate rape. We have held that penetration by entry of the lips of the female organ even without rapture of hymen suffices
to warrant conviction for rape (People vs. Conchada, 88 SCRA 683, People v. Ytac 95 SCRA 644).

It is established by the medical and phychological examination that complainant is a mental retardate. Sexual intercourse with a woman who is
deprived of reason or one who is weak in intellect to the extent that she is incapable of giving rational consent to the carnal intercourse constitutes
rape. In this type of rape the employment of force or intimidation on the part of the man and resistance on the part of the woman are not essential.
In the instant case the fact that complainant did not offer any resistance did not mean that she consented, for clearly she could not comprehend
the fun implications of the libidinous act. Surely, she deserves the protection of the law.
In his second assignment of error, appellant insists that the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction to try the case because the complaint was filed by
complainant who was a minor and a mental retardate contrary to the provisions of Rule 110, Secs. 4 and 5 of the Revised Rules of Court and Art. 344
of the Revised Penal Code, the pertinent portions reading as follows:
The offended party, even if she were a minor, has the right to institute the prosecution for the above offenses, independently of her
parents, grandparents or guardian, unless she is incompetent or incapable of doing so upon grounds other than her minority. (Rule
110, Sec. 4, Rules of Court; Rule 110, Sec. 5, 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure.)
xxx xxx xxx
The offenses of seduction, abduction, rape or acts of lasciviousness shall not be prosecuted except upon a complaint filed by the
offended party or her parents, grandparents, or guardian, nor, in any case, if the offender has been expressly pardoned by the
abovenamed persons, as the case may be. ...
(Also, Article 344 of the Revised Penal Code)
Again, appellant's argument holds no water.
It is of course well-settled that jurisdiction over the subject matter of an actionin this case the crime of rapeis and may be conferred only by law,
and that jurisdiction over a given crime not vested by law upon a particular court, may not be conferred thereon by the parties involved in the
offense. (Manila Railroad v. Atty. General, 20 Phil. 523; Perkins v. Roxas, 72 Phil. 514, cited in Valdepenas vs. People, 16 SCRA 871). But the
aforementioned provision of Art. 344 does not determine the jurisdiction of our courts over the offenses therein enumerated. It could not affect said
jurisdiction, because the same with respect to the instant crime is governed by the Judiciary Act of 1948, not by the Revised Penal Code, which
deals primarily with the definition of crimes and the factors pertinent to the punishment of the culprits. The complaint required in said Art. 344 is
merely a condition precedent to the exercise by the proper authorities of the power to prosecute the guilty parties. And such condition has been
imposed out of consideration for the offended woman and her family who might prefer to suffer the outrage in silence rather than go through with
the scandal of a public trial. (Samilin v. Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, 57 Phil. 298, 304, cited in Valdepenas v. People, supra)
In the case at bar, while the complaint may have been technically in the sense that complainant was incompetent, this defect has been cured
when complainant's brother Fernando Alcala took the witness stand for the prosecution. The brother's testimony shows the consent and willingness of
the family of complainant, who can not give her consent obviously, to have the private offense committed against the latter publicly tried.
Substantially, this is what is required by the rules. Evidently, by undergoing trial, the family of complainant chose to denounce the injustice committed
against the latter in public and thus agreed to bear the personal effects of said exposure. Undoubtedly, therefore, the trial court had jurisdiction to
try the case.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the guilt of the accused has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. The assailed decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

Case #61 Physical evidence


G.R. No. 105830

January 15, 2002

ELADIO
C.
vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

TANGAN, petitioner,

RESOLUTION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
On February 23, 2001, this Court rendered a Decision as follows:
WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 103613 is DISMISSED. The appealed decision subject of G.R. No. 105830 is AFFIRMED with the
following MODIFICATIONS:
(1) Tangan is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to fourteen
(14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal,maximum, with all the accessory penalties.
(2) Tangan is ordered to pay the victim's heirs P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P42,000.00 as funeral and burial expenses, P5,000.00 as
attorney's fees, and P50,000.00 as moral damages,
SO ORDERED.
Petitioner Eladio C. Tangan filed a Motion for Reconsideration, invoking the rule that factual findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals are
binding on this Court. Thus, he argues that this Court erred in disregarding the mitigating circumstances which were appreciated by the lower courts
and in raising the indeterminate penalty imposed on him from a maximum of two years and four months of prision correccional to a maximum of
fourteen years, eight months and one day of reclusion temporal. This, he claims, exposed him to the "horrifying reality" of being re-incarcerated after
having been preventively confined for more than four years.1
It bears stressing that at no time during the trial of the case did petitioner raise self-defense. Nevertheless, the trial court and the Court of Appeals
found the attendance of the mitigating circumstances of incomplete self-defense, sufficient provocation, and passion and obfuscation.1wphi1.nt
When petitioner appealed the decision, he threw open the whole case for review. It became the duty of this Court to correct any error as may be
found in the appealed judgment, whether it was made the subject of assignment of errors or not.2
Thus, this Court reviewed the records of the case and found that the evidence fails to support or substantiate the lower court's findings and
conclusions. Clearly, therefore, this case falls within the recognized exceptions to the rule that an appellate court will generally not disturb the
assessment of the trial court on factual matters considering that the latter, as a trier of fact, is in a better position to appreciate the same.3
First of all, the physical evidence belies petitioner's version of the incident. As we clearly explained in our assailed Decision:
The medical examiner testified that the distance between the muzzle of the gun and the target was about 2 inches but definitely not more
than 3 inches. Based on the point of exit and trajectory transit of the wound, the victim and the alleged assailant were facing each other
when the shot was made and the position of the gun was almost perpendicular when fired. These findings disprove Tangan's claim of
accidental shooting. A revolver is not prone to accidental firing because of the nature of its mechanism, unless it were uncocked, then
considerable pressure had to be applied on the trigger to fire the revolver.4
Physical evidence is a mute but eloquent manifestation of truth, and it ranks high in the hierarchy of our trustworthy evidence. 5 For this reason, it is
regarded as evidence of the highest order. It speaks more eloquently than a hundred witnesses.6

The physical evidence is amply corroborated by the eyewitness accounts of Rosalia dela Cruz and Mary Ann Borromeo to the effect that petitioner
took a gun from his car and suddenly fired it at the deceased.7
Likewise, this Court found that the mitigating circumstances appreciated by the trial court are not present. Petitioner refutes this and insists on his
version of the facts. However, the testimony of his witness, on which he heavily relies, suffers from material inconsistencies which render it unworthy of
belief.
It was shown that defense witness Nelson Pante was 10 meters away when he saw the incident, and his line of vision was blocked by petitioner's
car.8 From that distance and vantage point, he could not have heard anything or have had an unobstructed view of the events. Sure enough, the
details of his statement betray the falsity thereof. He testified that petitioner was hit on the eyebrow, while petitioner said he was hit on the
jaw.9 Pante was also unable to identify Manuel Miranda, the person whom he supposedly saw punch petitioner. 10
All of these, and the incredibility of petitioner's account when compared with the physical evidence, belie self-defense. From the established facts, it
can be plainly gleaned that there was no unlawful aggression on the part of the deceased. What merely transpired before petitioner's gun went off
was a heated exchange of words between the protagonists. This does not qualify as unlawful aggression. Unlawful aggression presupposes an
actual, sudden, and unexpected attack, or imminent danger thereof. The person defending himself must have been attacked with actual physical
force or with actual use of weapon.11
Unlawful aggression is a condition sine qua non for the justifying circumstance of self-defense. There can be no self-defense, complete or
incomplete, unless the victim has committed an unlawful aggression against the person defending himself. 12
By the same token, the evidence does not show the attendance of the mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation on the part of the
offended party. As stated, the provocation must be sufficient to excite a person to commit a wrong and must accordingly be proportionate to its
gravity. In this case, all that the deceased did immediately before he was shot was shout expletives and slap petitioner's hand when the latter
pointed it to his face. These acts, while offensive, were grossly disproportionate to petitioner's act of drawing and firing of a gun.
Furthermore, there was no sudden and unexpected occurrence that could have naturally produced a powerful excitement in petitioner's mind
causing him to lose his reason and self-control. As shown by the facts, no passion and obfuscation could have clouded his mind.
On the whole, therefore, this Court correctly imposed on petitioner the proper penalty for Homicide, without the attendance of any mitigating or
aggravating circumstance, and sentenced him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to
fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, maximum.
While his Motion for Reconsideration was pending, petitioner filed with the Court an "Omnibus Motion to Re-Raffle/Transfer and/or to Recuse." He
alleged, among others, that the ponente of the assailed Decision is biased in favor of respondents and, therefore, must recuse herself from this case.
Petitioner's accusation, however, is based on nothing more than this Court's own evaluation of the evidence and departure from the rule that
findings of facts of lower court are not to be disturbed.
Petitioner should bear in mind that the Decision, although penned by a member of the Court, is a decision of the whole Court. Hence, any attack on
the integrity of the ponente, or any member of the Court for that matter, is an attack on the entire Court. More importantly, petitioner fails to
establish with concrete proof his imputations of bias. Such irresponsible and unfounded statements will not be taken lightly by this Court. Hence,
petitioner and his counsel should be admonished for making such baseless and unsubstantiated accusations of bias against the Court. Moreover,
the Omnibus Motion should be denied for lack of merit.1wphi1.nt
Petitioner faults the Court for increasing the penalty five times such that, despite having served the penalty imposed by the trial court, he now faces
the "intolerable specter of reincarceration."13 It should be recalled that petitioner, by consciously and deliberately firing his gun, snuffed the life out of
a 29-year old optometrist. Suffice it to state that petitioner should bear the consequences of his felonious act.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit. The Omnibus Motion to Re-Raffle/Transfer and/or to
Recuse is likewise DENIED. This denial is FINAL.
SO ORDERED.

Case #62 Police line-up for identifying suspect


G.R. No. 104383*

July 12, 2001

PEOPLE
OF
THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
VALERIANO AMESTUZO y VIAS, FEDERICO AMPATIN y SABUSAB, ALBINO BAGAS y DALUHATAN and DIASCORO VIAS y ODAL, accused.
ALBINO BAGAS y DALUHATAN, accused-appellant
KAPUNAN, J.:
One of the cardinal rules of criminal law is that the guilt of the accused must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. If the
inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and
the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction.1 In the
present case, there being a doubt as to the guilt of accused-appellant, the constitutional presumption of innocence stands and he must be
acquitted.
This is an appeal from the decision dated November 28, 1991 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 131, Kalookan City in Criminal Case No. 36930
finding accused-appellant Albino Bagas guilty of the complex crime of robbery in band with double rape and sentencing him accordingly.
At about nine-thirty in the evening of February 22, 1991, a group of eight armed men wearing masks entered the house of complainant Perlita delos
Santos Lacsamana at Sacred Heart Village, Kalookan City and robbed the said premises of valuables in the total amount of P728,000.00. In the
course of the robbery, two members of the gang raped Maria Fe Catanyag and Estrella Rolago, niece and employee, respectively of complainant
Lacsamana.
On February 27, 1991, accused-appellant Albino Bagas, Valeriano Amestuzo, Federico Ampatin, Dioscoro Vias and four other accused, whose
identities are unknown and who are still at large up to the present, were charged with the complex crime of robbery in band with double rape under
the following information:
That on or about the 22nd day of February 1991, in Kalookan City, Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another, all armed with guns, with intent of gain, and by means o f
violence, threats and intimidation upon the person of Perlita delos Santos de Lacsamana, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously take, rob and carry away the following, to wit:
Cash money in the amount of ----------

P128,000.00

Jewelries worth ----------------------------

600,000.00

Total -

P728,000.00

all belonging to said complainant, to the damage and prejudice of the latter, in the aforesaid amount of P728,000.00; and on the occasion
thereof, said accused conspiring together and mutually helping one another likewise by means of force and violence and with the use of
their weapons, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with Fe Catanyag y Cabaero and Estrella Rolago y Madrid both
residents of said house, against their will and without their consent.

Contrary to law.2
On arraignment, all the accused including accused-appellant Albino Bagas pleaded "Not Guilty" to the charge. Thereafter, trial ensued.
The facts as found by the trial court and as presented in the Solicitor General's Brief are as follows:
The incident happened at the compound of Block 5, Road 32, Phase II of the Sacred Heart Village in Kalookan City (pp. 6-7, TSN, July 2,
1991). In the compound are the main house where Mrs. Perlita Lacsamana resides and another house which serves as the office and quarters
for Lacsamana's employees. In between of these two houses is about three (3) meter-wide area where the dirty kitchen and the garage are
found. In the first floor of the main house is the master's bedroom, and on the second floor is the guestroom" (pp. 6-8, TSN, July 2, 1991).
While at the master's bedroom on that particular evening at about 9:30 p.m., Lacsamana overheard her maid, cried 'aray, aray, aray'. She
immediately went out but as soon as she opened the door of her room, two (2) men (one of them is accused Amestuzo while the other one
remains unarrested) poked their guns on her. At gun point, Lacsamana, Lea, Edwin, and Belen were forcibly brought to the second floor of
the main house. Thereat, Lacsamana saw four (4) other male persons ransacking her premises. The said male persons, armed with guns and
knives, tied her including all her employees and members of her household with the use of torn electric fan wire and television wire. After that
they were told to lie down with face against the floor but a minute later she was asked where the master's bedroom is and when she
answered that it is on the ground floor, she was again forcefully brought down. On her way down, she saw, aside from the six (6) male
persons who were inside her house, two (2) other male persons (later identified as accused Ampatin and Vias) outside the main house but
within the compound (pp. 8-10, TSN, July 2, 1991).1wphi1.nt
Once they were already inside the master's bedroom, the six (6 ) armed male persons (two (2) of them were Amestuzo and Bagas)
ransacked the same and took all her monies, jewelries, shoes, jackets, colored television and imported wine. Likewise, aforesaid accused ate
the foods found by them in their kitchen. (pp.10-11, 13, TSN, July 2, 1991).
After ransacking the room, two (2) of the accused, one (1) of them is Amestuzo, brought Estrella Rolago inside her room and afterwhich she
was in turn brought to the guest room. Thereat she heard Rolago pleading "Maawa kayo, maawa kayo" then after ten (10) minutes, Rolago,
with bloodstain on her shorts, was brought in back to the guest room (pp. 13-14, TSN, July 2, 1991). Rolago was raped by Amestuzo (pp. 17-20,
TSN, July 3, 1991).
Almost simultaneously, Bagas likewise sexually assaulted and ravished Fe Catanyag (pp. 38-40, TSN, July 3, 1991; pp. 2-5, TSN, July 4, 1991).
Thereafter, Bagas shouted at her to stand up and although she was experiencing pain on her private part which was bleeding at that time,
she stood up, dressed up and proceeded to the servants' quarter (pp. 4-5, TSN, July 4, 1991).
Thereafter, Mrs, Lacsamana shouted for help. Sensing that the accused had already left, they locked the door. With the help of her employer
and co-employees, more particularly Nanding, she and Rolago were brought the nearby Neopolitan Clinic and from there they proceeded
to the St. Luke's Hospital where Dr. Brion treated Catanyag and Rolago (pp. 6-7, TSN, July 4, 1991; pp. 19-20, TSN, July 3, 1991).3
On November 28, 1991, the trial court rendered judgment convicting all the accused. The dispositive portion of the trial court's decision reads as
follows:
WHEREFORE, this Court renders judgment CONVICTING accused VALERIANO AMESTUZO y VIAS, FEDERICO AMPATIN y SABUSAB, ALBINO
BAGAS y DALUHATAN, DIOSCORO VINAS y ODAL of the complex crime of ROBBERY IN BAND WITH DOUBLE RAPE and sentences each of them
to suffer imprisonment of DOUBLE RECLUSION PERPETUA and orders them to jointly and severally indemnify to complainant Perlita delos Santos
de Lacsamana the amount of P800,000.00 representing the value of monies and properties taken forcibly away by the accused and to
indemnify, jointly and severally, Ma. Fe Catanyag and Estrella Rolago the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS each.
SO ORDERED.4

From the judgment of conviction by the trial court, only herein accused-appellant Bagas appealed to this Court. His appeal is based mainly on (1)
the alleged deprivation of his constitutional right to be represented by counsel during his identification, (2) the trial court's error in giving due weight
to the open court identification of him which was based on a suggestive and irregular out-of-court identification, and (3) the trial court's improper
rejection of his defense of alibi.
Accused-appellant maintains that from the time he was arrested until he was presented to the complainants for identification, he was deprived of
the benefit of counsel. He narrates the circumstances surrounding his arrest and investigation as follows:
On February 26, 1991, four days after the alleged incident, a group of policemen together with accused Federico Ampatin, who was then a suspect,
went to the handicrafts factory in NIA Road, Pasay City where accused-appellant was working as a stay-in shell cutter. They were looking for a
certain "Mario" and searched the first and second floors of the building. Failing to find said Mario, the police hit Ampatin at the back of his neck with
a gun and uttered, "Niloloko lang yata tayo ng taong ito" and "Magturo ka ng tao kahit sino." It was at this juncture that Ampatin pointed to
accused-appellant Bagas as he was the first person Ampatin chanced to look upon.
Thereafter, he was arrested and made to board the police vehicle together with accused Ampatin. While on board the jeep, accused Ampatin told
him that he (Ampatin) committed an error in pointing him out to the police,"namumukaan lang niya ako, napagkamalian lang niya ako." They were
brought to the Urduja Police Station in Kalookan City and placed under detention together with the other two accused, Amestuzo and Vias. When
the complainants arrived, accused-appellant was brought out, instructed to turn to the left and then to the right and he was asked to talk.
Complainant Lacsamana asked him if he knew accused Amestuzo and Vias. Accused-appellant answered in the negative. The policemen told
the complainants that accused-appellant was one of the suspects. This incited complainants to an emotional frenzy, kicking and hitting him. They
only stopped when one of the policemen intervened.5
Accused-appellant alleges that the trial court committed a serious error when it deprived him of his constitutional right to be represented by a
lawyer during his investigation. His singular presentation to the complainants for identification without the benefit of counsel, accused-appellant
avers, is a flagrant violation of the constitutional prerogative to be assisted by counsel to which he was entitled from the moment he was arrested by
the police and placed on detention. He maintains that the identification was a critical stage of prosecution at which he was as much entitled to the
aid of counsel as during the trial proper.
The contention is not meritorious. The guarantees of Sec. 12 (1), Art. III of the 1987 Constitution, or the so-calledMiranda rights, may be invoked only
by a person while he is under custodial investigation.6 Custodial investigation starts when the police investigation is no longer a general inquiry into
an unsolved crime but has begun to focus on a particular suspect taken into custody by the police who starts the interrogation and propounds
questions to the person to elicit incriminating statements.7 Police line-up is not part of the custodial investigation; hence, the right to counsel
guaranteed by the Constitution cannot yet be invoked at this stage.8 This was settled in the case of People vs. Lamsing9 and in the more recent case
of People vs. Salvatierra.10 The right to be assisted by counsel attaches only during custodial investigation and cannot be claimed by the accused
during identification in a police line-up because it is not part of the custodial investigation process. This is because during a police line-up, the
process has not yet shifted from the investigatory to the accusatory 11 and it is usually the witness or the complainant who is interrogated and who
gives a statement in the course of the line-up.12
Hence, herein accused-appellant could not yet invoke his right to counsel when he was presented for identification by the complainants because
the same was not yet part of the investigation process. Moreover, there was no showing that during his identification by the complainants, the police
investigators sought to elicit any admission or confession from accused-appellant. In fact, records show that the police did not at all talk to accusedappellant when he was presented before the complainants. The alleged infringement of the constitutional rights of the accused while under
custodial investigation is relevant and material only to cases in which an extra-judicial admission or confession extracted from the accused becomes
the basis of his conviction.13 In the present case, there is no such confession or extra-judicial admission.
Accused-appellant also makes much ado about the manner in which he was presented to the complainants for identification. It is alleged that the
identification was irregular as he was not placed in a police line-up and instead, made to stand before the complainants alone.

Again, the contention has no merit. As aptly pointed out by the Solicitor General, there is no law requiring a police line-up as essential to a proper
identification.14 The fact that he was brought out of the detention cell alone and was made to stand before the accused by himself and
unaccompanied by any other suspects or persons does not detract from the validity of the identification process.
However, we agree that complainants' out-of-court identification of accused-appellant was seriously flawed as to preclude its admissibility. In
resolving the admissibility and reliability of out-of-court identifications, we have applied the totality of circumstances test enunciated in the case
of People vs. Teehankee15 which lists the following factors:
xxx (1) the witness' opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness' degree of attention at that time; (3) the accuracy
of any prior description given by the witness; (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; (5) the length of time
between the crime and the identification; and (6) the suggestiveness of the identification process.
The out-of-court identification of herein accused-appellant by complainants in the police station appears to have been improperly suggestive. Even
before complainants had the opportunity to view accused-appellant face-to-face when he was brought our of the detention cell to be presented
to them for identification, the police made an announcement that he was one of the suspects in the crime and that he was the one pointed to by
accused Ampatin as one of culprits. According to accused-appellant Q:

When the complaining witnesses arrived at the Urduja precinct at that time you mentioned, were you immediately kicked by them?

A:

No, sir.

Q:

How long a time from the time they arrived at the Urduja precinct to the time that you were kicked by them?

A:

Around 10 minutes, sir.

Q:

And how were you identified or recognized by the complaining witnesses?

A:
Because upon arrival at the Urduja police station, the policemen announced that I am one of the suspects in this case and thereafter,
the complainants started kicking me, sir.
Q:

So that the announcement of the policemen that you were one of the suspects came first then they started kicking you?

A:

Yes, sir.16

It is, thus, clear that the identification was practically suggested by the police themselves when they announced to the complainants that accusedappellant was the person pointed to by Ampatin. The fact that this information came to the knowledge of the complainants prior to their
identification based on their own recall of the incident detracts from the spontaneity of their subsequent identification and therefore, its objectivity.
In a similar case, People vs. Cruz,17 accused Cruz, a suspected co-conspirator in a case of robbery with homicide, was presented to the witnesses
alone and made to walk and turn around in their presence. Then the police pointed out to the accused and several others as the persons suspected
by the police as the perpetrators of the robbery committed in Goso-on. The Court, in rejecting the subsequent identification made by the witnesses,
reasoned that:
The manner by which (witnesses) were made to identify the accused at the police station was pointedly suggestive, generated confidence
where there was none, activated visual imagination, and all told, subverted their reliability as eyewitnesses.
In Tuason vs. Court of Appeals,18 an NBI agent first pointed the accused to the witnesses after which the latter identified the accused. The Court held
that such identification was doubtful as the same was not spontaneous and independent as there was improper suggestion coming from the NBI
agent. We ruled that a "show-up" or the presentation of a single suspect to a witness for purposes of identification is seriously flawed as it "constitutes
the most grossly suggestive identification procedure now or ever used by the police."

Likewise in People vs. Meneses,19 where the accused was presented to the lone witness as the suspect in the crime inside the police investigator's
office, the Court pronounced that although the police officer did not literally point to the accused as in the Tuason case, the confrontation and the
identification proceeding therefrom was objectionable.
The Court also finds that the trial court erroneously rejected accused-appellant's alibi.
Accused-appellant clearly and positively testified that at the time of the crime, February 22, 1991, he was working as a shell cutter in a factory in
Pasay City where he was a stay-in employee. He rendered overtime work until ten o'clock in the evening that night because they had to rush work.
After ten p.m., he, together with his stay-in co-workers, went to sleep. Four days later, he was arrested when accused Ampatin randomly pointed him
out to the police.20
This testimony of accused-appellant was materially corroborated by two of his co-employees who were with him on the night of the incident.
Rodolfo Rosales, his co-worker, testified that he worked overtime until 10 p.m. in the Pasay City factory together with accused-appellant. Upon
finishing work, they went to sleep in their quarters on the second floor of the building because they were stay-in employees of the factory.21 Another
co-worker of accused-appellant, Clemente Gahelan, was similarly offered as a witness to corroborate Rosales' testimony and his testimony was duly
admitted by the prosecution.22
The employer of accused-appellant Rolando Ocasla, likewise testified that on the night of the incident, accused-appellant worked overtime in his
factory until 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., he personally locked the door of the premises which was the only means of ingress and engress, as he always
does because it was his means of preventing any pilferage of materials. He was the only one who had keys to said door. Around five a.m. of the
following day, he woke up accused-appellant and told him to drink his coffee. He also declared that there was nothing unusual about accusedappellant's behavior either, before, during or after the date of the alleged crime. 23
The defense of alibi or denial assumes significance or strength when it is amply corroborated by a credible witness. 24 And to be given weight,
accused must prove not only that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed but that he was so far away that it was physically
impossible for him to be present at the crime scene or its immediate vicinity at the time of its commission. 25
In this case, we find accused-appellant's alibi sufficiently corroborated by the testimonies of his co-workers and his employer who categorically
stated that they were with accused-appellant on the night of the crime. There was no evidence that these witnesses were related to accusedappellant; neither was it shown that they had any personal interest nor motive in the case. As impartial credible witnesses, their testimonies cannot
be doubted absent a clear showing of undue bias or prejudice, or convincing proof of the impropriety of their motives to testify for the accused.26
Accused-appellant vehemently argues that it was physically impossible for him to have been present at the scene of the crime or its immediate
vicinity at the time of its commission. First, the crime was committed around 9:30 in the evening of February 22, 1991. Accused-appellant, as well as
two other witnesses, testified that he worked in the factory until 10 p.m. that night and went to sleep after. Second, there was only one door in the
factory which was the only means of entrance and exit and this door was kept locked by witness Ocasla after ten p.m. that night. Ocasla was the
only person who had a key to this door. Third, the windows on the first floor of the building consisted of hollow blocks with small holes which do not
allow passage. The second and third floor windows were 14 and 21 feet high, respectively. There was no possible means of exit through these
windows without accused-appellant getting hurt or injured. Lastly, the crime took place in Kalookan City around 9:30 p.m. while accused-appellant's
place of work was in Pasay City. Assuming for the sake of argument that he was able to leave the premises after 10 p.m. that night, by the time he
reaches Kalookan, the crime would have already been completed.
The Court has held that where an accused sets up alibi as a defense, the courts should not be too readily disposed to dismiss the same, for, taken in
the light of all the evidence on record, it may be sufficient to reverse the outcome of the case as found by the trial court and thereby rightly set the
accused free.27 Though inherently weak as a defense, alibi in the present case has been sufficiently established by corroborative testimonies of
credible witnesses and by evidence of physical impossibility of accused-appellant's presence at the scene of the crime. Alibi, therefore, should have
been properly appreciated in accused-appellant's favor.

Another significant evidence which the trial court failed to consider is the voluntary confession of accused Federico Ampatin absolving accusedappellant Bagas of the crime. Ampatin's testimony was clear and categorical:
Q:

When you reached that house where Bagas was working what happened?

A:

All the persons were ordered to lie down, sir.

xxx
Q:

And what did they do to you?

A:

Immediately I was instructed to follow the policemen who went upstairs, sir.

Q:

Why did that policemen go upstairs?

A:

He was looking for Mario, sir.

xxx
Q:

Upon reaching the second floor, what happened there?

A:

They did not see any person there, sir.

Q:

What followed next?

A:

P/O Melmida pistol-whipped me, sir.

Q:

Where were you hit?

A:

On the left portion of my neck, sir.

Q:

Did Melmida utter any remark while hitting you?

xxx
A:

He told me to point to somebody else, sir, saying these words, "Magturo ka ng tao kahit sino."

xxx
Q:

So what did you do when you were ordered to point to anyone?

A:

Because at that time I cannot yet stand up he forced me to go downstairs, sir.

xxx
Q:

Were you able to reached (sic) the ground floor?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

And what happened there?

A:
I pointed to Albino Bagas, sir, because he was the only first person I saw there at the ground floor while his companions were on the
other side because I don't want to get hurt anymore, Your Honor.
Court: When you see (sic) Bagas was lying face down at the time you pointed to him?
A:

Yes, your Honor.

Court: You did not bother to look at his face?


A:

No more Your Honor because I was in a hurry to point to somebody because I was afraid that I will be hurt again, Your Honor.

xxx
Court: You mean to say at the time you pointed to Albino Bagas you did not know him?
A:

No I don't know him, Your Honor.28

Ampatin and accused-appellant were charged as co-conspirators in the crime of robbery with rape. As a co-accused, it would have been more
consistent with human nature for Ampatin to implicate accused-appellant if indeed he was one of the gang. In fact, the Court has recognized that
"as is usual with human nature, a culprit, confessing a crime is likely to put the blame as far as possible on others rather than himself.29 The fact that he
testified to the innocence of a co-accused, an act which resulted in no advantage or benefit to him and which might in fact implicate him more,
should have been received by the trial court as an indicum of the truth of Ampatin's testimony and the innocence of herein accused-appellant.
Ampatin's testimony, therefore, should have been given weight by the trial court. More so, the same was substantially corroborated by another
witness, Rodolfo Rosales, accused-appellant's co-worker and who was present when accused-appellant was arrested. Rosales testified as follows:
Q:

Now, do you know when was Albino Bagas arrested in connection with this case?

A:

Last February 25, that was Monday, sir.

Q:

And where were you when he was arrested?

A:

I was there at that time.

xxx
Q:

xxx what was the reaction of Albino Bagas when he was being pointed to and arrested by the arresting officers?

A:
The situation goes like this, sir, the policemen arrived there and they were holding the persons of Ampatin and they were looking for a
person named Mario that was what I heard, sir, and then the policemen forced us to be identified or to be seen by the guide. Ampatin at first
at the ground floor but since there was nobody there by the name of Mario they proceeded to the second floor and upon looking one of
the policemen shouted, "Wala rito, niloloko lang tayo ng taong ito."
Court: Then what happened next?
Witness: And I noticed that the reaction of Federico Ampatin that he was afraid, so, because of fear he was able to point on the person of
Albino Bagas but when asked he does not know the name of Albino Bagas, Your Honor.
Atty. Pacis: Before going to the second floor, because according to you the arresting officers and the guide went to the second floor, was
Albino Bagas at the ground floor seen by the guide and the policemen?
A:

We were the first group of persons seen by the policemen and Albino and I were beside each other, sir.

Q:
And you want to impressed (sic) upon this Honorable Court that at first at the ground floor, Albino Bagas was not identified by this
Ampatin before going to the second floor?
A:
The guide was not able to identify the person of Albino Bagas and that was the reason why they still made searches at the second
floor, sir.
Q:

How was Federico Ampatin able to identify Albino Bagas when he was accompanied by the policemen went downstairs?

A:

I noticed from the reaction of Federico Ampatin that he was afraid after hearing the shout of the policemen, sir.

xxx30
The testimony of witness Rosales corroborates Ampatin's declaration in court that he does not know herein accused-appellant and merely pointed
to him out of fear of the police. These testimonies remain unrebutted by the prosecution as the arresting officers were not presented to refute or
deny the same. The foregoing testimonies exculpating accused-appellant have sufficiently cast at least a shadow of doubt as to his guilt.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court convicting accused-appellant Albino Bagas of the crime of robbery with multiple rape is
hereby REVERSED and he is ACQUITTED of the crime charged. His immediate release is hereby ordered unless he is held for some other valid charges.
SO ORDERED.

Case #63 Chain of Custody


G.R. No. 181545

October 8, 2008

THE
vs.
MARK DELA CRUZ, appellant.

PEOPLE

OF

THE

PHILIPPINES, appellee,

DECISION
TINGA, J.:
Subject of this appeal is the 12 September 2007 decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02534, affirming the 24 August 2006
judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 120 of Caloocan City, finding appellant Mark Dela Cruz y Batac guilty of violation of Section 5,
Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165.
Appellant was charged with illegal sale of shabu in an Information dated 18 July 2003, committed as follows:
That on or about the 16th day of July 2003 in Caloocan City, M.M. and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
conspiring together and mutually helping one another, without having been authorized by law, did then and there wil[l]fully, unlawfully and
feloniously sell and deliver to one PO2 EUGENE C. AMOYO, who posed as buyer, two (2) pcs. of small transparent plastic sachets containing 0.08
gram, total weight of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu) for [t]wo (2) pcs of One Hundred Peso Bill with SN DF950395 and KY384741 knowing
the same to be a dangerous drug.
CONTRARY TO LAW.3
Appellant entered a plea of not guilty upon arraignment. During the pre-trial conference, the parties stipulated that P/Insp. Ericson L. Calabocal
conducted a qualitative examination on two (2) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets evidenced by Physical Science Report No. D-845-03 dated
17 July 2003. It was further stipulated that said witness had no personal knowledge as to the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest of
appellant, as well as the source of the subject specimens.4
Trial ensued. Witnesses for the prosecution narrated that in the evening of 16 July 2003, a male informant came to the office of the Northern Police
District on Tanigue Street, Kaunlaran Village, Caloocan City. In the presence of PO3 Gilbert Velasco (PO3 Velasco) and PO2 Eugene Amoyo (PO2
Amoyo), the informant complained about the rampant selling of shabu by a certain Mac-Mac. Said information was relayed to P/Chief Inspector
Rafael Santiago who immediately instructed PO3 Velasco to form a buy-bust team. The team was composed of PO3 Velasco, PO2 Amoyo, PO3 Joel
Borda (PO3 Borda), PO2 Loreto Lagmay, PO1 Renato Ameng, PO1 Allan Reyes and PO1 Joel Cosme. PO2 Amoyo was the designated poseur-buyer.
Two (2) pieces of P100.00 bills were prepared as boodle money. The initials "ECA" were placed on the bills.
The buy-bust team underwent a briefing and then proceeded to the target area on board two (2) separate vehicles. They arrived at a parking lot
along Hipon Liit in Dagat-dagatan at 7:30 p.m. PO2 Amoyo, PO3 Velasco and PO3 Borda, along with the informant, waited beside a coconut tree
for Mac-Mac.
After two hours, appellant arrived with two male companions. The informant approached appellant and introduced PO2 Amoyo to him as a buyer
of P200.00 worth of shabu. Appellant left for a while to get the shabu from his companions, who were standing 7 meters away from the group. He
returned ten (10) minutes later and handed two (2) plastic sachets to PO2 Amoyo, who, in exchange, handed over the boodle money.
After the exchange, PO2 Amoyo raised his left hand to signal the other members of the buy-bust team that the transaction had already been
concluded. PO3 Velasco and PO3 Borda immediately arrested appellant while PO2 Amoyo ran after appellants companions. There was an
exchange of gunfire between PO2 Amoyo and an unidentified companion but the latter was able to escape unscathed. PO2 Amoyo kept the two
(2) plastic sachets in his pocket.

A spot investigation was conducted on appellant. It was revealed that the two (2) male companions were identified as Amay and Tabo. Appellant
was then brought to the police headquarters. PO2 Amoyo placed his markings "ECA-BB-1" and "ECA-BB-2" on the plastic sachets before turning them
over, together with the buy-bust money, to SPO4 Jorge Tabayag. PO2 Amoyo also prepared a request for laboratory examination addressed to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory.
The two (2) plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance were found positive for shabu. Said finding was indicated in Physical Science
Report No. D-845-035 prepared by Forensic Chemist and Police Inspector Erickson L. Calabocal of the PNP Crime Laboratory Group.
Appellant presented a different version of the facts. He testified that at 8:30 p.m. on 16 July 2003, he was sitting in the plaza located on Hipon Liit St.,
Dagat-dagatan, Caloocan City. He was waiting for his brother to deliver his boots when the policemen arrived and were looking for an alias Amay.
Appellant then heard a gunshot and saw Amay firing the shot. Appellant ran towards his house. Later, the policemen went to his house and
handcuffed him. When appellant asked why he was being arrested, the policemen claimed that appellant knew Amay. Appellant denied
selling shabu and asserted that the case was filed against him when he refused to give information about Amay.
Appellants testimony was corroborated by his brother, Balweg Dela la Cruz, who stated in court that appellant instructed him to get his boots and
bring them to the plaza at around 8:30 p.m.6 As he was about to leave the house, Balweg saw his brother being arrested by two policemen. He
heard from other people that the policemen were asking appellant if he knew of a man named Amay. 7
In finding appellant guilty, the trial court ruled that there was a meeting of minds between the poseur-buyer and appellant as to the delivery
of shabu in exchange for P200.00. The dispositive portion of said judgment reads:
Premises considered, this Court finds accused MARK DELA CRUZ Y BATAC "GUILTY" beyond reasonable doubt for Violation of Sec. 5, Article II of [R.A.
No.] 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and imposes upon him the penalty of Life Imprisonment and a fine
of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) Pesos.
The two (2) plastic sachets containing 0.04 gram each of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride is hereby ordered confiscated in favor of the
government to be turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PEDEA) [sic] for proper disposition.
SO ORDERED.8
On 15 September 2006, appellant appealed to the Court of Appeals via a notice of appeal.9
On 12 September 2007, the Court of Appeals rendered judgment affirming the RTC's decision in Criminal Case No. 68601. 10 The appellate court gave
weight to the testimony of the poseur-buyer as well as to the Physical Science Report in concluding that the illegal sale of shabu was perpetrated by
appellant. The appellate court rejected appellants defense of frame-up for failure to substantiate such allegation and in light of the presumption of
regularity accorded to police officers in the performance of their official duties. Anent the alleged failure of the police officers to observe the
procedure laid down under Section 21 of R. A. No. 9165, the appellate court held that such failure is not fatal as the circumstances in the instant
case show that the integrity pertaining to the custody of the seized shabu was not compromised notwithstanding that the same were marked only
during the investigation held at the police station.11
After obtaining an unfavorable decision, appellant filed a notice of appeal before this Court.12
On 9 April 2008, this Court required the parties to simultaneously file their supplemental briefs. 13
In two separate manifestations, both parties expressed their intention not to file any supplemental brief since all the issues and arguments have
already been raised in their respective Briefs.14
Appellant maintains that the prosecution was not able to establish the moral certainty required by law to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
He contends that his defenses of alibi and denial were supported not only by his testimony but by that of other witnesses. He questions the identity of
the shabu allegedly confiscated from him as the marking was made only in the police station in front of the investigating officer, contrary to the

requirement laid down in Section 21 (1) of RA No. 9165. He also assails the forensic laboratory examination result in that it was not covered by a
certification in violation of Section 21 (3) of the same law. He stresses that the prosecution must not simply rely on the presumption of regularity for it
cannot by itself support a judgment of conviction.15
In its appellees brief,16 the Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG) supports the conviction of appellant. It argues that appellant was caught in
flagrante delicto selling shabu in a legitimate buy-bust operation. It claims that the elements necessary in the prosecution of the illegal sale of drugs
were duly established by the prosecution, namely: the appellant, as seller of the shabu, and the poseur-buyer were identified; and
the shabu confiscated from appellant and the money used to buy it were also presented in court. The OSG emphasizes that the sachets
of shabu presented in court were the same sachets confiscated from appellant and subjected to laboratory examination. It justifies the nonobservance of Section 21 (1) of R. A. No. 9165 since the corpus delicti of the illegal sale of drugs was duly established during trial. It adds that after
the confiscation of the sachets of shabufrom appellant, they were immediately submitted for laboratory examination to the PNP Crime Laboratory.17
The appeal is meritorious.
The elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs are: (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration;
and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof
that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti.18
The common issue that crops out of a buy-bust operation, like in this case, is whether the drug submitted for laboratory examination and presented
in court was actually recovered from appellant. The Court is cognizant of the fact that an entrapment operation is open to possibilities of abuse. It is
by this same thrust that the chain of custody rule was adopted by the Court. In Lopez v. People,19 we had the occasion to expound on the chain of
custody rule, thus:
As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to
support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the
moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe
how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness possession, the condition in which it was received
and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precaution s taken to ensure that
there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.
While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard because it is almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody
becomes indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and is not readily identifiable, or when its condition at the time
of testing or trial is critical, or when a witness has failed to observe its uniqueness. The same standard likewise obtains in case the evidence is
susceptible to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange. In other words, the exhibits level of susceptibility to
fungibility, alteration or tamperingwithout regard to whether the same is advertent or otherwise notdictates the level of strictness in the
application of the chain of custody rule.
Indeed, the likelihood of tampering, loss or mistake with respect to an exhibit is greatest when the exhibit is small and is one that has physical
characteristics fungible in nature and similar in form to substances familiar to people in their daily lives. Graham v. State positively acknowledged this
danger. In that case where a substance later analyzed as heroinwas handled by two police officers prior to examination who however did not
testify in court on the condition and whereabouts of the exhibit at the time it was in their possessionwas excluded from the prosecution evidence,
the court pointing out that the white powder seized could have been indeed heroin or it could have been sugar or baking powder. It ruled that
unless the state can show by records or testimony, the continuous whereabouts of the exhibit at least between the time it came into the possession
of police officers until it was tested in the laboratory to determine its composition, testimony of the state as to the laboratorys findings is inadmissible.
A unique characteristic of narcotic substances is that they are not readily identifiable as in fact they are subject to scientific analysis to determine
their composition and nature. The Court cannot reluctantly close its eyes to the likelihood, or at least the possibility, that at any of the links in the
chain of custody over the same there could have been tampering, alteration or substitution of substances from other casesby accident or

otherwisein which similar evidence was seized or in which similar evidence was submitted for laboratory testing. Hence, in authenticating the
same, a standard more stringent than that applied to cases involving objects which are readily identifiable must be applied, a more exacting
standard that entails a chain of custody of the item with sufficient completeness if only to render it improbable that the original item has either been
exchanged with another or been contaminated or tampered with.
Thus, the corpus delicti should be identified with unwavering exactitude.20
This Court believes that the prosecution failed to clearly establish the chain of custody of the seized plastic sachets containing shabu from the time
they were first allegedly received until they were brought to the police investigator.
PO2 Amoyo testified that he failed to place any marking on the sachets of shabu immediately after the apprehension of appellant. In fact, PO3
Amoyo admitted that he only placed his markings upon being ordered by SPO4 Tabayag. 21
The defense however failed to corroborate PO2 Amoyos claim. While SPO4 Tabayag was presented in court, he neglected to mention nor was he
asked about the markings on the shabu. On the contrary, the sworn statement of PO2 Amoyo, which was formally offered in evidence, seemed to
suggest that markings were made prior to the submission of the shabu to SPO4 Tabayag, to wit:
16 T: Maipapakita mo ba yong sinasabi mong pinaghihinalaang Shabu na nabili mo dito kay Mark Dela Cruz, alyas Mac Mac?
S: Opo. Ito po. [Affiant presented two (2) pieces of small transparent plastic sachets (heat-sealed) containing a crystalline substance believed to be
Shabu] at ang plastic po nito ay aking minarkahan ng aking inisyal na "ECA-BB1" at "ECA-BB2]."22
Verily, PO2 Amoyos testimony suggests that he already placed his markings prior to being questioned by SPO4 Tabayag.
Moreover, no other witness was presented to testify or to fill the gap from the time SPO4 Tabayag received the sachets of shabu from PO2 Amoyo up
to the time they were delivered to the PNP Crime Laboratory.
Furthermore, nothing on record shows that the procedural requirements of Section 21, Paragraph 1 of Article II of R. A. No. 916523 with respect to
custody and disposition of confiscated drugs were complied with. There was no physical inventory and photograph of the items allegedly
confiscated from appellant. Neither did the police officers offer any explanation for their failure to observe the rule. The prosecution merely sought
refuge in its belief that a stringent application of the rule may be dispensed with if the corpus delicti has been duly established.
In People v. Orteza,24 the Court citing People v. Laxa,25 People v. Kimura26 and Zarraga v. People,27 reiterated the ruling that the failure of the police
to comply with the procedure in the custody of the seized drugs raises doubt as to its origins. 28
In People v. Nazareno,29 the poseur-buyer failed to immediately place his markings on the seized drugs before turning them over to the police
investigators. The police officer who placed his markings was not presented to testify on what actually transpired after the drugs were turned over to
him. The Court equated these circumstances as failure on the part of the prosecution to prove the existence of the corpus delicti.30
As stated by the Court in People v. Santos, Jr.,31 failure to observe the proper procedure also negates the operation of the presumption of regularity
accorded to police officers.32 As a general rule, the testimony of the police officers who apprehended the accused is usually accorded full faith and
credit because of the presumption that they have performed their duties regularly. 33 However, when the performance of their duties is tainted with
irregularities, such presumption is effectively destroyed.
While the law enforcers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties, this presumption cannot prevail over the constitutional
right of the accused to be presumed innocent and it cannot by itself constitute proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 34 The presumption of
regularity is merely just thata mere presumption disputable by contrary proof and which when challenged by the evidence cannot be regarded
as binding truth. 35
In fine, the failure to establish the corpus delicti is detrimental to the cause of the prosecution. The Court is thus constrained to acquit appellant on
reasonable doubt.

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 12 September 2007 affirming the judgment of conviction of the Regional Trial Court
of Caloocan City, Branch 120 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant MARK DELA CRUZ y BATAC is ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt and is accordingly
ordered immediately released from custody unless he is being lawfully held for another offense.
The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to implement this decision forthwith and to INFORM this Court, within five (5) days from receipt
hereof, of the date appellant was actually released from confinement.
Let a copy of this decision be forwarded to the PNP Director and the Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for proper
guidance and implementation. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

Case #64 Chain of Custody


G.R. No. 180177

April 18, 2012

ROGELIO
vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, Respondent.

S.

REYES, Petitioner,

DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
The burden rests in the Prosecution to see to it that the evidence of guilt satisfies the standard of moral certainty demanded in all criminal
prosecutions. The standard demands that all the essential elements of the offense are established as to leave no room for any doubt about the guilt
of the accused. The courts should unfailingly impose the standard in order to prevent injustice from being perpetrated against the accused.
Under review is the decision promulgated on September 28, 2007 by the Court of Appeals (CA), 1 whereby the CA affirmed the conviction of
petitioner by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 2, in Manila 2 for violations of Section 5 and Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 (The
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).
Antecedents
On February 23, 2005, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila filed two informations charging petitioner with illegal sale of shabu and illegal
possession of shabu defined and punished, respectively, by Sections 5 and 11 of R.A. No. 9165, 3 to wit:
Criminal Case No. 05234564
That on or about January 20, 2005, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, not being been (sic) authorized by law to sell, trade, deliver or
give away to another any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell One (1) heat sealed transparent plastic sachet
containing zero point zero two two (0.022) gram, of white crystalline substance known as "SHABU" containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride,
which is a dangerous drug.
CONTRARY TO LAW.4
Criminal Case No. 05234565
That on or about January 20, 2005, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, not being then authorized by law to possess any dangerous
drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his possession and under his custody and control One (1) heat sealed transparent
plastic sachet containing zero point zero two four (0.024) gram of white crystalline substance known as "SHABU" containing methylamphetamine
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
CONTRARY TO LAW.5
After petitioner pled not guilty, trial ensued. The summary of the evidence of the parties adduced at trial follows.
In the morning of January 20, 2005, a lady confidential informant went to the Police Station 8 of the Western Police District to report on the drugdealing activities of a certain alias Boy (later identified as petitioner) on M. Mapa Street, Sta. Mesa, Manila. 6 A buy-bust team of ten
members,7 including PO2 Erwin Payumo as designated poseur-buyer,8 was formed. PO2 Payumo then prepared the necessary documents prior to
the operation.9

From the police station, the lady confidential informant called petitioner by phone. The latter instructed her to wait on M. Mapa Street.10 Thus, the
buy-bust team proceeded to that area and arrived at around 4:20 p.m. of January 20, 2005. 11 PO2 Payumo and the lady confidential informant
arrived together to wait for petitioner. The rest of the buy-bust team, who had gone to the area on board an L300 van,12 took positions nearby.
Petitioner came by five minutes later,13 and, after asking the lady confidential informant whether PO2 Payumo was the buyer, instructed Payumo to
follow him to his house where he told PO2 Payumo to wait. Two other individuals, later identified as Conchita Carlos and Jeonilo Flores, were also
waiting for petitioner.14
Upon getting back, petitioner asked PO2 Payumo for the payment, 15 and the latter complied and handed the marked money consisting of
three P50.00 bills all bearing the initials "TF".16 Petitioner then went into a room and returned with a plastic sachet containing white crystalline
substance that he gave to PO2 Payumo. Receiving the plastic sachet, PO2 Payumo placed a missed call to PO1 Miguelito Gil, a member of the buybust team, thereby giving the pre-arranged signal showing that the transaction was completed. PO2 Payumo then arrested petitioner after
identifying himself as an officer. PO2 Payumo recovered another sachet containing white crystalline substance from petitioners right hand, and the
marked money from petitioners right front pocket.17 The rest of the buy-bust team meanwhile came around and recovered two sachets also
containing white crystalline substance from the sofa where Conchita and Jeonilo were sitting. The buy-bust team thus also arrested Conchita and
Jeonilo.18
Back at the police station, PO2 Payumo placed on the plastic sachet that petitioner had handed him the marking "RRS-1" and on the other sachet
recovered from petitioners right hand the marking "RRS-2."19 The seized items were thereafter turned over to the Western Police District Crime
Laboratory for examination by P/Insp. Judycel Macapagal, who found the items positive for methampethamine hydrochloride or shabu.20
On the other hand, petitioner denied that there had been a buy-bust operation, and claimed that he had been framed up.
Petitioner testified that he was at his house entertaining his visitors Conchita and Jeonilo in the afternoon of January 20, 2005;21 that Conchita was
selling to him a sofa bed for P800.00, while Jeonilo was only contracted by Conchita to drive the jeepney carrying the sofa bed;22 that the three of
them were surprised when a group of armed men in civilian clothes barged into his house and conducted a search, and arrested them; that he was
also surprised to see a plastic sachet when the armed men emptied his pocket; that the plastic sachet did not belong to him; 23 that PO2 Payumo
was not among those who entered and searched his house;24 that the three of them were made to board a van where PO1 Rudolf Mijares
demanded P30,000.00 for his release;25 and that because he told them he had no money to give to them, one of the men remarked: Sige, tuluyan
na yan; and that they were then brought to the police station.26
Jeonilo corroborated petitioners story.27
Ruling of the RTC
As stated, on May 23, 2006, the RTC found petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt, to wit:
Unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly
performing their duty, their testimonies with respect to the operation deserve full faith and credit.
However like alibi, we view the defense of frame up with disfavor as it can easily be concocted and is commonly used as a standard line of defense
in most prosecution arising from violations of the Dangerous Drugs Acts.
Having established that a legitimate buy-bust operation occurred in the case at bar, there can now be no question as to the guilt of the accusedappellant. Such operation has been considered as an effective mode of apprehending drug pushers. If carried out with due regard to the
constitutional and legal safeguards, it deserves judicial sanction." (People of the Philippines vs. Lowell Saludes, et al., G.R. No. 144157, June 10, 2003)
The accused failed to show any ill motive on the part of the policeman to testify falsely against him. Indeed, the prosecution showed that the police
were at the place of the incident to do exactly what they are supposed to doto conduct an operation. The portrayal put forward by accused
and his lone witness remained uncorroborated. Evidence to be believed must not only come from a credible witness but must in itself be credible.

The entrapment operation paved the way for the valid warrantless arrest of accused, Sec. 5(a) of Rule 113 of the Rules of Court provides thus:
"A police officer or private person, without warrant, may arrest a person:
(a) when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; xxx
"It has been held that the testimonies of police officers involved in a buy-bust operation deserve full faith and credit, given the presumption that they
have performed their duties regularly. This presumption can be overturned if clear and convincing evidence is presented to prove either two things:
(1) that they were not properly performing their duty, or (2) that they were inspired by any improper motive." (People of the Philippines vs. Reynaldo
Remarata et al., G.R. No. 147230, April 29, 2003)
The positive identification of appellants by the prosecution witness should prevail over the formers denials of the commission of the crime for which
they are charged, since greater weight is generally accorded to the positive testimony of the prosecution witness than the accuseds denial. Denial,
like alibi, is inherently a weak defense and cannot prevail over the positive and credible testimony of the prosecution witness that the accused
committed the crime. (People of the Philippines vs. Edwin Belibet, Manny Banoy and Ronnie Rosero, G.R. No. 91260, July 25, 1991)28
The dispositive portion of the decision of the RTC reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows, to wit:
1. In Criminal Case No. 05-234564, finding accused, Rogelio Reyes y Samson, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, he is
hereby sentenced to life imprisonment and to pay the fine of P500,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay
the costs.
2. In Criminal Case No. 05-234565, finding accused, Rogelio Reyes y Samson, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, he is
hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of 12 years and 1 day as minimum to 17 years and 4 months as maximum; to pay a fine
of P300,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the costs.
The specimens are forfeited in favor of the government and the Branch Clerk of Court, accompanied by the Branch Sheriff, is directed to turn over
with dispatch and upon receipt the said specimen to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for proper disposal in accordance with the
law and rules.
SO ORDERED.29
With his motion for reconsideration being denied by the RTC, petitioner filed his notice of appeal. 30
Ruling of the CA
On appeal, the CA affirmed the findings of the RTC thuswise:
A fortiori, viewed in the light of the foregoing, We are strongly convinced that the prosecution has proven the guilt of the Appellant for the crimes
charged beyond reasonable doubt.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Appeal is DENIED. The challenged Decision of the court a quo is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.31
The CA gave more weight to the testimony of poseur buyer PO2 Payumo, and believed the findings of the laboratory examination conducted by
P/Insp. Macapagal. It recognized the validity of the buy-bust operation.
Issue
Petitioner is now before the Court seeking to reverse the decision of the CA upon the sole error that:

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT FINDING WORTHY OF CREDENCE PETITIONERS WITNESS TESTIMONY
CREATING DOUBT ON THE GUILT OF THE PETITIONER OF THE CRIME CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION.
Petitioner wants the Court to give credence to his defense of frame-up, and to believe the testimony of Jeonilo Flores who had no reason to testify
falsely against the arresting officers.
Ruling
The appeal is meritorious.
In this jurisdiction, we convict the accused only when his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Conformably with this standard, we are
mandated as an appellate court to sift the records and search for every error, though unassigned in the appeal, in order to ensure that the
conviction is warranted, and to correct every error that the lower court has committed in finding guilt against the accused. 32
Guided by the standard, we acquit petitioner.
The buy-bust operation mounted against petitioner resulted from the tip of an unnamed lady confidential informant. Such an operation, according
to People v. Garcia,33 was "susceptible to police abuse, the most notorious of which is its use as a tool for extortion," and the possibility of that abuse
was great.34 The susceptibility to abuse of the operation led to the institution of several procedural safeguards by R.A. No. 9165, mainly to guide the
law enforcers. Thus, the State must show a faithful compliance with such safeguards during the prosecution of every drug-related offense.35
The procedural safeguards start with the requirements prescribed by Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 relating to the custody and disposition of the
confiscated, seized, and surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of the dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals,
instruments and paraphernalia, and laboratory equipment. The provision relevantly states:
Section 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled
Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. xxx:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her
representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be
required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; xxx (Emphasis supplied)
This appeal involves two distinct drug-related offenses, namely: illegal sale of dangerous drugs, and illegal possession of dangerous drugs. The
successful prosecution of illegal sale of dangerous drugs requires: (a) proof that the transaction or sale took place, and (b) the presentation in court
as evidence of the corpus delicti, or the dangerous drugs themselves. On the other hand, the prosecution of illegal possession of dangerous drugs
necessitates the following facts to be proved, namely: (a) the accused was in possession of dangerous drugs, (b) such possession was not authorized
by law, and (c) the accused was freely and consciously aware of being in possession of dangerous drugs. 36 For both offenses, it is crucial that the
Prosecution establishes the identity of the seized dangerous drugs in a way that the integrity thereof has been well preserved from the time of seizure
or confiscation from the accused until the time of presentation as evidence in court. Nothing less than a faithful compliance with this duty is
demanded of all law enforcers arresting drug pushers and drug possessors and confiscating and seizing the dangerous drugs and substances from
them.
This duty of seeing to the integrity of the dangerous drugs and substances is discharged only when the arresting law enforcer ensures that the chain
of custody is unbroken. This has been the reason for defining chain of custody under Section 1(b) of the Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1,
Series of 2002, viz:
(b) "Chain of custody" means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of
dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to
presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person who

held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer or custody were made in the course of safekeeping and used in
court as evidence, and the final disposition; (Emphasis supplied)
In Mallilin v. People,37 the need to maintain an unbroken chain of custody is emphasized:
As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to
support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the
moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe
how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness possession, the condition in which it was received
and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that
there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.
While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard because it is almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody
becomes indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and is not readily identifiable, or when its condition at the time
of testing or trial is critical, or when a witness has failed to observe its uniqueness. The same standard likewise obtains in case the evidence is
susceptible to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange. In other words, the exhibits level of susceptibility to
fungibility, alteration or tamperingwithout regard to whether the same is advertent or otherwise notdictates the level of strictness in the
application of the chain of custody rule.
Cogently, Mallilin v. People is reiterated in Catuiran v. People,38 People v. Garcia,39 and People v. Villanueva,40among others.
Here, the Prosecution failed to demonstrate a faithful compliance by the arresting lawmen of the rule on chain of custody. To start with, the fact that
the dangerous drugs were inventoried and photographed at the site of arrest upon seizure in the presence of petitioner, a representative of the
media, a representative of the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official, was not shown. As such, the arresting lawmen did not
at all comply with the further requirement to have the attending representative of the media, representative of the DOJ, and elected public official
sign the inventory and be furnished a copy each of the inventory. Instead, the records show that PO2 Payumo placed the markings of "RRS-1" on the
sachet allegedly received from petitioner and "RRS-2" on the two sachets allegedly seized from petitioners hand already at the police station with
only petitioner present. Yet, the Prosecution did not also present any witness to establish that an inventory of the seized articles at least signed by
petitioner at that point was prepared.
We clarified in People v. Sanchez41 that in compliance with Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, supra, the physical inventory and photographing of the
seized articles should be conducted, if practicable, at the place of seizure or confiscation in cases of warrantless seizure. But that was true only if
there were indications that petitioner tried to escape or resisted arrest, which might provide the reason why the arresting team was not able to do
the inventory or photographing at petitioners house; otherwise, the physical inventory and photographing must always be immediately executed at
the place of seizure or confiscation.
In People v. Pringas,42 the non-compliance by the buy-bust team with Section 21, supra, was held not to be fatal for as long as there was justifiable
ground for it, and for as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the confiscated or seized articles were properly preserved by the
apprehending officer or team. The Court further pronounced therein that such non-compliance would not render an accuseds arrest illegal or the
items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible, for what was of utmost importance was the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value
of the seized or confiscated articles, considering that they were to be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.
However, the omissions noted herein indicated that the State did not establish the identity of the dangerous drugs allegedly seized from petitioner
with the same exacting certitude required for a finding of guilt.
To be sure, the buy-bust operation was infected by lapses. Although PO2 Payumo declared that he was the one who had received the sachet of
shabu ("RRS-1") from petitioner and who had confiscated the two sachets of shabu ("RRS-2") from petitioner, all of which he had then sealed, nothing
more to support the fact that the evidence thus seized had remained intact was adduced. In fact, the State did not anymore establish to whom the

seized articles had been endorsed after PO2 Payumo had placed the markings at the station, and with whose custody or safekeeping the seized
articles had remained until their endorsement to P/Insp. Macapagal for the laboratory examination. Presently, we cannot justifiably presume that the
seized articles had remained in the possession of PO2 Payumo in view of the testimony of P/Insp. Macapagal to the effect that the party requesting
the laboratory examination had been a certain Police Officer Alano,43 whom the Prosecution did not at all particularly identify or present as its
witness. In this regard, Laboratory Report No. D-085-05,44 the report prepared by P/Insp. Macapagal, also stated that the party requesting the
conduct of the laboratory examination was the "OIC-SAID-SOTU, PS-8, Western Police District." Also, the Prosecution did not show to whom the seized
articles had been turned over following the conduct of the laboratory examination, and how the seized articles had been kept in a manner that
preserved their integrity until their final presentation in court as evidence of the corpus delicti. Such lapses of the Prosecution were fatal to its proof of
guilt because they demonstrated that the chain of custody did not stay unbroken, thereby raising doubt on the integrity and identity of the
dangerous drugs as evidence of the corpus delicti of the crimes charged.
We are then not surprised to detect other grounds for skepticism about the evidence of guilt.
Firstly, PO2 Payumo testified that the lady confidential informant had gone to Police Station 8 to report the alleged drug-selling activities of petitioner
for the first time in the morning of January 20, 2005. That report led to the forming of the buy-bust team,45 for purposes of which he prepared the preoperation documents. His veracity was suspect, however, considering that his so-called Pre-Operation/Coordination Sheet appeared to have been
prepared on the day before, as its date "January 19, 2005" disclosed.46 The date of January 19, 2005 also appeared in the Certification of
Coordination issued by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in reference to the buy-bust operation against petitioner.47 Considering that the
Prosecution did not explain the discrepancy, the impression is unavoidable that the buy-bust operation was already set in motion even before the
lady informant actually made her report against petitioner. Thereby, his defense of frame-up was bolstered.
Secondly, the Pre-Operation/Coordination Sheet indicated that there were ten members "and three (3) others" that comprised the buy-bust
team.48 Yet, the Joint Affidavit submitted by the members of the buy-bust team was executed and signed by only six officers (excluding even poseur
buyer PO2 Payumo himself), namely: PO1 Mijares, PO1 Mark Dave Vicente, PO1 Maurison Ablaza, PO1 Elmer Clemente and PO1 Gil. 49 The
Prosecutions failure to explain why only six members of the buy-bust team actually executed and signed the Joint Affidavit might indicate that the
incrimination of petitioner through the buy-bust operation was probably not reliable.1wphi1
And, thirdly, both the Pre-Operation/Coordination Sheet and the Certification of Coordination revealed that the confidential information received
involved two suspects of illegal drug trade in Bacood, Sta. Mesa known as alias Boy and alias Totoy Tinga. PO2 Payumo recalled, however, that the
lady confidential informant had tipped the police off only about alias Boy. It seems from such selectiveness that PO2 Payumo deliberately omitted
the other target and zeroed in only on alias Boy (petitioner), which might suggest that PO2 Payumo was not as reliable as a poseur buyer-witness as
he presented himself to be.1wphi1
Conviction must stand on the strength of the Prosecutions evidence, not on the weakness of the defense the accused put up. 50 Evidence proving
the guilt of the accused must always be beyond reasonable doubt. If the evidence of guilt falls short of this requirement, the Court will not allow the
accused to be deprived of his liberty. His acquittal should come as a matter of course.
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision promulgated on September 28, 2007 by the Court of Appeals; and ACQUITS accused
ROGELIO S. REYES of the crimes charged in Criminal Case No. 05-234564 and Criminal Case No. 05-234565.
The Court DIRECTS the Director of the Bureau of Corrections in Muntinlupa City to release ROGELIO S. REYES from custody unless he is detained
thereat for another lawful cause; and to report on his compliance herewith within five days from receipt.
No pronouncements on costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.

Case #65 Chain of Custody


G.R. No. 190321

April 25, 2012

PEOPLE
OF
vs.
SAMMY UMIPANG y ABDUL, Accused-Appellant.

THE

PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,

DECISION
SERENO, J.:
Before the Court is an appeal from the 21 May 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) 1 affirming the 24 July 2007 Joint Decision of the Pasig City
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Criminal Cases No. 14935-D-TG and No. 14936-D-TG.2 The RTC Decision convicted Sammy Umipang y Abdul (Umipang)
for violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 (R.A. 9165), otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002.
Facts
The pertinent facts, as determined by the CA, are quoted as follows:
Acting on a tip from a confidential informant that a person named Sam was selling drugs along Cagayan de Oro Street in Maharlika Village, Taguig
City, a buy-bust team from the [Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force (SAID-SOTF)] of the Taguig City Police was dispatched on
April 1, 2006 at around 6:00 in the evening. [Police Officer (PO) 2] Gasid was assigned to act as poseur buyer and he was given a P 500.00 marked
money. The operation was coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Upon arrival at the area, PO2 Gasid and the confidential informant sauntered the length of the street while the other members of the team
strategically positioned themselves. The confidential informant saw the man called Sam standing near a store. The confidential informant and PO2
Gasid then approached Sam. Straight off, the confidential informant said "Sam, pa-iskor kami." Sam replied "Magkano ang iiskorin nyo?" The
confidential informant said "Five hundred pesos." Sam took out three (3) plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance with various price
tags500, 300, and 100. After making a choice, PO2 Gasid handed the marked P 500.00 to Sam who received the same.
Upon receipt by Sam of the marked money, PO2 Gasid took off his cap as the pre-arranged signal that the sale had been consummated. Sensing
danger, Sam attempted to flee but PO2 Gasid immediately grabbed and arrested Sam. In a few seconds, the rest of the buy-bust team [comprised
of their team leader, Police Senior Inspector (PS/INSP.) Obong, Senior Police Officer (SPO) 1 Mendiola, PO3 Hajan, PO3 Maglana, PO3 Salem, and
PO1 Ragos] joined them. PO1 Ragos handcuffed Sam. Five (5) more plastic sachets containing the same white crystalline substance were recovered
from Sam. PO2 Gasid marked the items with the initials "SAU" [which stood for Sammy A. Umipang, the complete name, including the middle initial,
of accused-appellant]. Sam was forthwith brought to the police station where he was booked, investigated and identified as accused-appellant
Sammy Umipang y Abdul. PO2 Gasid then brought the confiscated items to the crime laboratory for testing. The specimens all tested positive for
Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, popularly known as "shabu," a dangerous drug.
On the other hand, the defense presented accused-appellant himself and his brother Nash Rudin Umipang. According to them:
In the evening of April 1, 2006, while they were sleeping, accused-appellant and his family were awakened by loud knocking on the door. The
persons outside shouted "Mga pulis kami. Buksan mo ang pinto kung hindi gigibain namin ito." Accused-appellant obliged and opened the door.
Five (5) policemen barged into his house and pointed a gun at him. Against his will and amid the screams of his wife, accused-appellant was
brought to a waiting vehicle and brought to the police headquarters. At the Taguig Police station, PO2 Gasid tried to extort from him P100,000.00 for
his release. He denied the charges and that the alleged evidence were all "planted" by the police. 3
Consequently, the following charges were brought against Umipang:

That on or about the 1st day of April 2006, in the City of Taguig, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, without having been authorized by law, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell deliver and give away to poseur buyer
PO2 Ruchyl Gasid, one heat sealed transparent plastic sachet containing 0.05 gram of white crystalline substance, which substance was found
positive to the test for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride also known as "shabu" a dangerous drug, in consideration of the amount of P 500.00, in
violation of the above-cited law.
That on or about the 1st day of April 2006, in the City of Taguig, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, without having been authorized by law, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and knowingly possess and have in his custody and control
five (5) heat sealed transparent plastic sachets, each containing 0.05 gram, 0.05 gram, 0.05 gram, 0.04 gram and 0.04 gram with a total weight of
0.23 gram of white crystalline substance, which substances were found positive to the tests for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride also known as
"shabu" a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.
RTC Ruling
In its 24 July 2007 Joint Decision, the Pasig City RTC found accused-appellant guilty of violating Section 5 (Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation,
Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals) and Section 11 (Possession of
Dangerous Drugs), Article II of R.A. 9165. The RTC gave more weight to the testimonies of the arresting officers on how they conducted the buy-bust
operation than to accused-appellants claim of frame-up by the police. Thus, for violating Section 5 (Criminal Case No. 14935-D-TG), Umipang was
sentenced to suffer life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P 500,000. For violating Section 11 (Criminal Case No. 14936-D-TG), he was sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day as minimum to fourteen (14) years one (1) day as maximum
and to pay a fine of P 300,000.
CA Ruling
In its 21 May 2009 Decision, the CA affirmed in toto the 24 July 2007 Joint Decision of the RTC. According to the appellate court, the elements
necessary for the prosecution of the illegal possession and sale of dangerous drugs were present and established. Thus, it no longer disturbed the
RTCs assessment of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. Furthermore, the CA found that there was no showing of improper motive on the part
of the police officers. With the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties, it ruled against the denials of accused-appellant, and
his defense of frame-up.
We have consistently declared that a review of the factual findings of the lower courts is not a function that is normally undertaken in appeals
before this Court. However, after a careful scrutiny of the CA Decision, we find it proper to reevaluate the factual issues surrounding the present
case, especially since it is not clear from the Decision whether the proper implementation of the strict procedural safeguards laid down in R.A. 9165
was established.
Issue
Whether or not the RTC and the CA erred in finding that the testimonial evidence of the prosecution witnesses were sufficient to convict accusedappellant of the alleged sale and possession of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, which are violations under Sections 5 and 11, respectively, of
R.A. 9165.
Discussion
Accused-appellant argues4 that since there were two versions presented during trial one, that of the prosecution; and the other, that of the
accused the latter version must be adopted, because the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties should not take
precedence over the presumption of innocence of the accused. He also contends that a surveillance of just 30 minutes was insufficient to establish
that Umipang was engaged in the sale of illegal drugs. Lastly, accused-appellant claims that the fact of possession of the confiscated plastic
sachets was not clearly established, and that the evidence allegedly confiscated from him was merely planted. 5 Alluding to the testimony of PO1
Ragos, he points out that the former did not see him holding the drugs, and that the sachet was shown only to PO1 Ragos by PO2 Gasid.

On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) prays for the affirmation of the RTC Joint Decision in all respects, as it was decided in
accord with law and evidence.6 The OSG argues7 that the necessary elements to convict a person under Sections 5 and 11 were proven beyond
reasonable doubt. It then contends that, absent independent proof and substantiated evidence to the contrary, accused-appellants bare-faced
denial should be deemed merely as a self-serving statement that does not hold merit. Finally, the OSG asserts that, where there is no evidence of
improper motive on the part of the prosecution witness to testify falsely against accused-appellant, the testimony must be given full faith and
credence.
Substantive law requires strict observance of the procedural safeguards outlined in R.A. 9165
At the outset, we take note that the present case stemmed from a buy-bust operation conducted by the SAID-SOTF. We thus recall our
pronouncement in People v. Garcia:
A buy-bust operation gave rise to the present case. While this kind of operation has been proven to be an effective way to flush out illegal
transactions that are otherwise conducted covertly and in secrecy, a buy-bust operation has a significant downside that has not escaped the
attention of the framers of the law. It is susceptible to police abuse, the most notorious of which is its use as a tool for extortion. In People v. Tan, this
Court itself recognized that "by the very nature of anti-narcotics operations, the need for entrapment procedures, the use of shady characters as
informants, the ease with which sticks of marijuana or grams of heroin can be planted in pockets of or hands of unsuspecting provincial hicks, and
the secrecy that inevitably shrouds all drug deals, the possibility of abuse is great. Thus, courts have been exhorted to be extra vigilant in trying drug
cases lest an innocent person is made to suffer the unusually severe penalties for drug offenses." Accordingly, specific procedures relating to the
seizure and custody of drugs have been laid down in the law (R.A. No. 9165) for the police to strictly follow. The prosecution must adduce evidence
that these procedures have been followed in proving the elements of the defined offense.8 (Emphasis supplied and citations omitted.)
Section 21 of R.A. 9165 delineates the mandatory procedural safeguards9 that are applicable in cases of buy-bust operations:
Section 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled
Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all
dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or
laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically
inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized,
or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official
who shallbe required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;
(2) Within twenty-four (24) hours upon confiscation/seizure of dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and
essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment, the same shall be submitted to the PDEA Forensic
Laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination;
(3) A certification of the forensic laboratory examination results, which shall be done under oath by the forensic laboratory examiner, shall be
issued within twenty-four (24) hours after the receipt of the subject item/s: Provided, That when the volume of the dangerous drugs, plant
sources of dangerous drugs, and controlled precursors and essential chemicals does not allow the completion of testing within the time
frame, a partial laboratory examination report shall be provisionally issued stating therein the quantities of dangerous drugs still to be
examined by the forensic laboratory: Provided, however, That a final certificationshall be issued on the completed forensic laboratory
examination on the same within the next twenty-four (24) hours;
(4) After the filing of the criminal case, the Court shall, within seventy-two (72) hours, conduct an ocular inspection of the confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, and controlled precursors and essential chemicals, including the
instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment, and through the PDEA shall within twenty-four (24) hours thereafter proceed with

the destruction or burning of the same, in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or
seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ, civil society groups and any elected public
official. The Board shall draw up the guidelines on the manner of proper disposition and destruction of such item/s which shall be borne by
the offender: Provided, That those item/s of lawful commerce, as determined by the Board, shall be donated, used or recycled for legitimate
purposes: Provided, further, That a representative sample, duly weighed and recorded is retained;
(5) The Board shall then issue a sworn certification as to the fact of destruction or burning of the subject item/s which, together with the
representative sample/s in the custody of the PDEA, shall be submitted to the court having jurisdiction over the case. In all instances, the
representative sample/s shall be kept to a minimum quantity as determined by the Board;
(6) The alleged offender or his/her representative or counsel shall be allowed to personally observe all of the above proceedings and his/her
presence shall not constitute an admission of guilt. In case the said offender or accused refuses or fails to appoint a representative after due
notice in writing to the accused or his/her counsel within seventy-two (72) hours before the actual burning or destruction of the evidence in
question, the Secretary of Justice shall appoint a member of the public attorney's office to represent the former; x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)
Congress introduced another complementing safeguard through Section 86 of R.A. 9165, which requires the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI),
Philippine National Police (PNP), and Bureau of Customs (BOC) to maintain close coordination with PDEA in matters of illegal drug-related
operations:
Section 86. Transfer, Absorption, and Integration of All Operating Units on Illegal Drugs into the PDEA and Transitory Provisions. x x x.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Nothing in this Act shall mean a diminution of the investigative powers of the NBI and the PNP on all other crimes as provided for in their respective
organic laws: Provided, however, That when the investigation being conducted by the NBI, PNP or any ad hoc anti-drug task force is found to be a
violation of any of the provisions of this Act, the PDEA shall be the lead agency. The NBI, PNP or any of the task force shall immediately transfer the
same to the PDEA: Provided, further, That the NBI, PNP and the Bureau of Customs shall maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related
matters. (Emphasis supplied.)
Thus, the 2002 Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9165 (IRR) set the following procedure for maintaining close coordination:
SECTION 86. Transfer, Absorption, and Integration of All Operating Units on Illegal Drugs into the PDEA and Transitory Provisions. x x x.
xxx

xxx

xxx

(a) Relationship/Coordination between PDEA and Other Agencies The PDEA shall be the lead agency in the enforcement of the Act, while the
PNP, the NBI and other law enforcement agencies shall continue to conduct anti-drug operations in support of the PDEA: Provided, that the said
agencies shall, as far as practicable, coordinate with the PDEA prior to anti-drug operations; Provided, further, that, in any case, said
agencies shall inform the PDEA of their anti-drug operations within twenty-four (24) hours from the time of the actual custody of the suspects or
seizure of said drugs and substances, as well as paraphernalia and transport equipment used in illegal activities involving such drugs and/or
substances, and shall regularly update the PDEA on the status of the cases involving the said anti-drug operations; Provided, furthermore, that raids,
seizures, and other anti-drug operations conducted by the PNP, the NBI, and other law enforcement agencies prior to the approval of this IRR shall
be valid and authorized; Provided, finally, that nothing in this IRR shall deprive the PNP, the NBI, other law enforcement personnel and the personnel
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from effecting lawful arrests and seizures in consonance with the provisions of Section 5, Rule 113 of the
Rules of Court. (Emphasis supplied.)
Given the nature of buy-bust operations and the resulting preventive procedural safeguards crafted in R.A. 9165, courts must tread carefully before
giving full credit to the testimonies of those who conducted the operations. Although we have ruled in the past that mere procedural lapses in the
conduct of a buy-bust operation are not ipso facto fatal to the prosecutions cause, so long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized

items have been preserved,10 courts must still thoroughly evaluate and differentiate those errors that constitute a simple procedural lapse from those
that amount to a gross, systematic, or deliberate disregard of the safeguards drawn by the law. Consequently, Section 21(a) of the IRR provides for a
saving clause in the procedures outlined under Section 21(1) of R.A. 9165, which serves as a guide in ascertaining those procedural aspects that may
be relaxedunder justifiable grounds, viz:
SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled
Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. x x x:
(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically
inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or
his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall
be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be
conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending
officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements
under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending
officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items; (Emphasis supplied.)
We have reiterated that "this saving clause applies only where the prosecution recognized the procedural lapses, and thereafter explained the cited
justifiable grounds" after which, "the prosecution must show that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized have been
preserved."11 To repeat, noncompliance with the required procedure will not necessarily result in the acquittal of the accused if: (1) the
noncompliance is on justifiable grounds; and (2) the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending team.12
Accordingly, despite the presumption of regularity in the performance of the official duties of law enforcers,13 we stress that the step-by-step
procedure outlined under R.A. 9165 is a matter of substantive law, which cannot be simply brushed aside as a simple procedural technicality. The
provisions were crafted by Congress as safety precautions to address potential police abuses, especially considering that the penalty imposed may
be life imprisonment. In People v. Coreche,14 we explained thus:
The concern with narrowing the window of opportunity for tampering with evidence found legislative expression in Section 21 (1) of RA 9165 on the
inventory of seized dangerous drugs and paraphernalia by putting in place a three-tiered requirement on the time, witnesses, and proof of inventory
by imposing on the apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs the duty to "immediately after seizure and confiscation,
physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or
seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official
who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof". (Emphasis supplied.)
Consequently, in a line of cases,15 we have lain emphasis on the importance of complying with the prescribed procedure. Stringent compliance is
justified under the rule that penal laws shall be construed strictly against the government and liberally in favor of the accused. 16 Otherwise, "the
procedure set out in the law will be mere lip service." 17
Material irregularities in the conduct of the buy-bust operations
In the recent case of People v. Relato, we reiterated the following:
In a prosecution of the sale and possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride prohibited under Republic Act No. 9165, the State not only carries
the heavy burden of proving the elements of the offense of, but also bears the obligation to prove the corpus delicti, failing in which the State will
not discharge its basic duty of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. It is settled that the State does not establish the corpus
delicti when the prohibited substance subject of the prosecution is missing or when substantial gaps in the chain of custody of the prohibited
substance raise grave doubts about the authenticity of the prohibited substance presented as evidence in court. Any gap renders the case for the

State less than complete in terms of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, Relato deserves exculpation, especially as we
recall that his defense of frame-up became plausible in the face of the weakness of the Prosecutions evidence of guilt. 18 (Emphasis supplied and
citations omitted.)
The conduct of the buy-bust operations was peppered with defects, which raises doubts on the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of
the seized items from accused-appellant.
First, there were material inconsistencies in the marking of the seized items. According to his testimony, PO2 Gasid used the initials of the complete
name, including the middle initial, of accused-appellant in order to mark the confiscated sachets. The marking was done immediately after
Umipang was handcuffed. However, a careful perusal of the testimony of PO2 Gasid would reveal that his prior knowledge of the complete initials of
accused-appellant, standing for the latters full name, was not clearly established. Thus, doubt arises as to when the plastic sachets were actually
marked, as shown by PO2 Gasids testimony:
A [PO2 Gasid]: We conducted a buy-bust operation on April 1, 2006.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Against whom did you conduct this buy-bust operation?
A: Against alias Sam, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: What prompted you to conduct this operation against this alias Sam?
A: We received information from our confidential informant that one alias Sam is selling shabu at Cagayan De Oro Street, Maharlika Village, Taguig.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Aside from this information that you received from your informant, was there anything more that your informant told you about the
real identity of this alias Sam?
A: Nothing more, sir, he gave us only his alias, sir.19
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: So, after you have taken the item and paid alias Sam and then you executed the pre-arranged signal that you have already
purchased from him, what happened then?
A: After I made the pre-arranged signal, mabilis po yung mata ni alias Sam, para ho bang balisa, siguro napansin nya na hindi lang kami dalawa (2),
aakma syang tatakbo, sinunggaban ko na po sya.
PROSEC. SANTOS: So, you held Sam already during that time?
A: Yes, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: What happened after that?
A: I introduced myself as police officer and at that time I arrested him.
PROSEC. SANTOS: What about your companions who serves [sic] as your immediate back up, what happened to them when you were already hold
and arrested [sic] this alias Sam?
A: I noticed my companions approaching us.
xxx

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xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: And what did your colleague Ragos do when he arrived at your place?
A: When he arrived at the place, after arresting alias Sam, he was the one who handcuffed him.

PROSEC. SANTOS: Was there anything more that was done in that place of occurrence during that time, Officer?
A: Yes, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Tell us please?
A: After arresting alias Sam, I frisk [sic] him for the remaining items he showed me and the buy-bust money I gave him.
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: Was there anything that you and your team did in the items that you confiscated from the possession of the accused during that
time and the shabu that you bought from him?
A: I marked the items I confiscated at the place of incident.
PROSEC. SANTOS: How did you marked [sic] the item that you bought from this alias Sam?
A: SAU, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: And what does that stand for? That SAU?
A: Stands for the initials of alias Sam.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Is that the only thing that you placed on the plastic sachet containing the shabu that you bought from this alias Sam during that
time?
A: I marked the shabu I bought as SAU-1.
PROSEC. SANTOS: How about the other five (5) plastic sachets containing the suspected shabu, what happened to that?
A: I marked them as SAU-2, SAU-3, SAU-4, SAU-5 and SAU-6.20
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: Now, after you have marked and inventoried the items that you bought and confiscated from this alias Sam during that time,
what else happened?
A: After the inventory of the evidences, I turn [sic] them over to the investigator.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Where did you turn these items to your investigator?
A: At the office, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Who was your investigator during that time?
A: PO1 Alexander Saez, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: When you turn these items to your investigator, where were you?
A: At the office, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: What happened to these items that you turn it over [sic] to your investigator?
A: He made a request for laboratory examination of the items confiscated.21
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: Now, Officer, this Sam when you have already arrested him, were you able to know his real name?
A: Yes, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: What was his real name?
A: Sammy Umipang, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Is he present here in Court?
A: Yes, sir.22
xxx

xxx

xxx

ATTY. HERNANDEZ: When you arrived at the place, by the way, where was your target area, Mr. Witness?
A: Cagayan De Oro Street, Barangay Maharlika, Taguig City.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: When you were there, you did not buy [sic] anybody to buy shabu from the accused?
A: No, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: So, you did not conduct any test buy?
A: No, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Nor did you make any inquiry with Cagayan De Oro Street regarding the accused?
A: Not anymore, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: At that moment, you dont have any idea regarding the identity of the accused and also whether he was engaged in illegal
activity?
A: Regarding the identity, he was described by the informant.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: It was only the informant who knows the accused?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And also your other members, they did not know the accused?
A: Yes, sir.23 (Emphasis supplied.)
A clearer picture of what transpired during the buy-bust operation, from the marking of the confiscated items to the arrest of accused-appellant, is
provided by the testimony of PO1 Ragos:
PROSEC. SANTOS: And what is the effect to you of the act of Gasid taking off his cap?
A: That is the sign that he already bought the shabu.
PROSEC. SANTOS: When you saw Gasid acting that way, being the back up of him during that time, what did you do?
A: I run [sic] towards them.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Were you able to go near him when you run [sic] towards him?
A: Yes, sir.

PROSEC. SANTOS: What happened?


A: I saw him holding Sam.
PROSEC. SANTOS: When you saw Gasid already holding Sam, what did you do?
A: I handcuffed Sam.
PROSEC. SANTOS: After that, what happened?
A: The items confiscated by Gasid were marked with his initials.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Did you see Gasid marking those things that he took from this Sam during that time?
A: Yes, sir.
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: What marked [sic] did he put on these plastic sachets?
A: SAU, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Do you know what SAU connotes?
A: Yes, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Tell us?
A: Sammy Abdul Umipang.
PROSEC. SANTOS: After that, what happened?
A: He was apprising [sic] of his constitutional rights.
PROSEC. SANTOS: After this person was apprised of his rights, was there anything more that was done?
A: We went back to the office.
PROSEC. SANTOS: All the members of the team went back to the office?
A: Yes, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: And together with this alias Sam?
A: Yes, sir.
PROSEC. SANTOS: What happened in your office?
A: We turn [sic] over the evidence to the investigator.
PROSEC. SANTOS: Who was your investigator during that time?
A: PO1 Saez.
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: So, after the team has turn [sic] over the evidences to your investigator in the person of Officer Saez, was there anything more that
transpired in relation to this event, this incident?

A: We prepared an affidavit of arrest.24


xxx

xxx

xxx

ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And this information regarding the accused was relayed to you by your immediate superior?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And this information was the first information regarding the accused, is that correct?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: What was told you was that your target person was alias Sam?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: No photographs of alias Sam was shown to you?
A: None, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: You have no derogatory records of this alias Sam in your office?
A: None, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: You have no warrant of arrest?
A: None, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: This alias Sam was not included in your watch list?
A: No, sir.25
xxx

xxx

xxx

ATTY. HERNANDEZ: So, the markings were placed on the plastic sachets?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: After that Mr. Witness, you brought the accused together with the items to your office?
PROSEC. SANTOS: Already answered, Your Honor. We are just repeating the same pattern, Your Honor.
xxx

xxx

xxx

ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Mr. Witness, you investigated the accused?


A: No more, it was PO1 Saez who investigated the accused.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: So, you did not ask the full name of the accused?
A: It was PO1 Saez who investigated him, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: It was PO1 Saez who got his full name and on you [sic] part, that was the first time that you were able to learned [sic] the full
name of the accused?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Because you knew him only as alias Sam?

A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: How about Officer Gasid, it was also the first time that he learned the full name of the accused?
A: Maybe not, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Mr. Witness, you mentioned that it was Officer Saez who delivered the items to the crime lab?
A: No sir, it was Gasid.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: But you were not with him when he delivered the specimen to the crime laboratory?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: No further question, Your Honor.
PROSEC. SANTOS: No re-direct, Your Honor. x x x26 (Emphasis supplied.)
The circumstances surrounding the marking of the seized items are suspect. From their testimonies during the trial, PO2 Gasid and PO1 Ragos both
admitted that they only knew their target by the name "Sam." They both testified that, after accused-appellant was handcuffed, frisked, and read
his rights, they immediately brought him to the police precinct. They then said that it was a certain PO1 Saez who investigated him. In fact, in their
joint affidavit, PO2 Gasid and PO1 Ragos stated thus:
Na dinala namin siya [accused] sa aming opisina para sa pagsisiyasat at pagtatanong tungkol sa detalye ng kaniyang pagkatao at sa layuning
masampahan ng kaukulang reklamo sa paglabag ng Section 5 and 11 of RA 9165.27 (Emphasis supplied.)
Evidence on record does not establish that PO2 Gasid had prior knowledge of the complete name of accused-appellant, including the middle
initial, which enabled the former to mark the seized items with the latters complete initials. This suspicious, material inconsistency in the marking of
the items raises questions as to how PO2 Gasid came to know about the initials of Umipang prior to the latters statements at the police precinct,
thereby creating a cloud of doubt on the issues of where the marking really took place and whether the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized
items were preserved. All that was established was that it was PO1 Saez who asked accused-appellant about the latters personal circumstances,
including his true identity, and that the questioning happened when accused-appellant was already at the police station. We thus reiterate:
Crucial in proving chain of custody is the marking of the seized drugs or other related items immediately after they are seized from the accused.
Marking after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link, thus it is vital that the seized contraband[s] are immediately marked because
succeeding handlers of the specimens will use the markings as reference. The marking of the evidence serves to separate the marked evidence
from the corpus of all other similar or related evidence from the time they are seized from the accused until they are disposed of at the end of
criminal proceedings, obviating switching, "planting", or contamination of evidence.
Long before Congress passed RA 9165, this Court has consistently held that failure of the authorities to immediately mark the seized drugs raises
reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti and suffices to rebut the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties,
the doctrinal fallback of every drug-related prosecution. Thus, in People v. Laxa and People v. Casimiro, we held that the failure to mark the drugs
immediately after they were seized from the accused casts doubt on the prosecution evidence, warranting acquittal on reasonable doubt. These
rulings are refinements of our holdings in People v. Mapa and People v. Dismuke that doubts on the authenticity of the drug specimen occasioned
by the prosecutions failure to prove that the evidence submitted for chemical analysis is the same as the one seized from the accused suffice to
warrant acquittal on reasonable doubt.28 (Emphasis supplied and citations omitted.)
It is true that the failure of the arresting officers to mark the seized items at the place of arrest does not by itself impair the integrity of the chain of
custody and render the confiscated items inadmissible in evidence. 29 We have already clarified that the marking upon "immediate" confiscation of
the prohibited items contemplates even that which was done at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending team. 30 We will analyze this

possible seed of doubt that has been planted by the unexplained marking of the shabu with the complete initials of Umipang, together with the
other alleged irregularities.
Second, the SAID-SOTF failed to show genuine and sufficient effort to seek the third-party representatives enumerated under Section 21(1) of R.A.
9165. Under the law, the inventory and photographing of seized items must be conducted in the presence of a representative from the media, from
the Department of Justice (DOJ), and from any elected public official. The testimony of PO2 Gasid, as quoted below, is enlightening:
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Mr. Witness, you also made the certificate of inventory, is that correct?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And since this is a drug operation, you are required by law to make a certificate of inventory?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And that inventory, you are required by law that there should be a signature of any representative from the media, is that
correct?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And also representative from the Department of Justice, is that correct?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And also elected official, Mr. Witness?
A: Yes, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Im showing to you Mr. Witness your certificate of inventory, do you confirm that there are no signatures placed by any member
of the media, representative from the Department of Justice and any elected official?
A: Yes, sir, there is none, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: And there appears to be an initial of RS above the type written name Sammy Umipang, who wrote this initial RS?
A: That stands for refuse [sic] to sign, sir.
ATTY. HERNANDEZ: Who refuse [sic] to sign?
A: Sammy Umipang, sir.31
xxx

xxx

xxx

PROSEC. SANTOS: Why was the certificate of inventory not witnesses [sic] and signed by any members of the media, the DOJ and elected officials,
Officer?
A: That time there is no available representative, sir.
COURT: How did you exert effort to locate available representative of those officers or persons in the certificate of inventory?
A: The investigator contacted representative from the media, Your Honor.
COURT: What barangay this incident happened?
A: Barangay Maharlika, Your Honor.

COURT: Did you talk to the barangay captain?


A: No, Your Honor.
COURT: What about the barangay councilman?
A: No, Your Honor.32 (Emphasis supplied.)
Indeed, the absence of these representatives during the physical inventory and the marking of the seized items does not per se render the
confiscated items inadmissible in evidence. However, we take note that, in this case, the SAID-SOTF did not even attempt to contact the barangay
chairperson or any member of the barangay council. There is no indication that they contacted other elected public officials. Neither do the
records show whether the police officers tried to get in touch with any DOJ representative. Nor does the SAID-SOTF adduce any justifiable reason for
failing to do so especially considering that it had sufficient time from the moment it received information about the activities of the accused until
the time of his arrest.
Thus, we find that there was no genuine and sufficient effort on the part of the apprehending police officers to look for the said representatives
pursuant to Section 21(1) of R.A. 9165. A sheer statement that representatives were unavailable without so much as an explanation on whether
serious attempts were employed to look for other representatives, given the circumstances is to be regarded as a flimsy excuse. We stress that it is
the prosecution who has the positive duty to establish that earnest efforts were employed in contacting the representatives enumerated under
Section 21(1) of R.A. 9165,33 or that there was a justifiable ground for failing to do so.34
Third, the SAID-SOTF failed to duly accomplish the Certificate of Inventory and to take photos of the seized items pursuant to Section 21(1) of R.A.
9165. As pointed out by the defense during trial,35 the Certificate of Inventory did not contain any signature, including that of PO2 Gasid the
arresting officer who prepared the certificate36 thus making the certificate defective. Also, the prosecution neither submitted any photograph of
the seized items nor offered any reason for failing to do so. We reiterate that these requirements are specifically outlined in and required to be
implemented by Section 21(1) of R.A. 9165.37
Minor deviations from the procedures under R.A. 9165 would not automatically exonerate an accused from the crimes of which he or she was
convicted.38 This is especially true when the lapses in procedure were "recognized and explained in terms of [] justifiable grounds." 39 There must also
be a showing "that the police officers intended to comply with the procedure but were thwarted by some justifiable
consideration/reason."40 However, when there is gross disregard of the procedural safeguards prescribed in the substantive law (R.A. 9165), serious
uncertainty is generated about the identity of the seized items that the prosecution presented in evidence.41 This uncertainty cannot be remedied
by simply invoking the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties, for a gross, systematic, or deliberate disregard of the
procedural safeguards effectively produces an irregularity in the performance of official duties. 42 As a result, the prosecution is deemed to have
failed to fully establish the elements of the crimes charged, creating reasonable doubt on the criminal liability of the accused.431wphi1
For the arresting officers failure to adduce justifiable grounds, we are led to conclude from the totality of the procedural lapses committed in this
case that the arresting officers deliberately disregarded the legal safeguards under R.A. 9165. These lapses effectively produced serious doubts on
the integrity and identity of the corpus delicti, especially in the face of allegations of frame-up. Thus, for the foregoing reasons, we must resolve the
doubt in favor of accused-appellant, "as every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt." 44
As a final note, we reiterate our past rulings calling upon the authorities "to exert greater efforts in combating the drug menace using the safeguards
that our lawmakers have deemed necessary for the greater benefit of our society." 45 The need to employ a more stringent approach to scrutinizing
the evidence of the prosecution especially when the pieces of evidence were derived from a buy-bust operation "redounds to the benefit of the
criminal justice system by protecting civil liberties and at the same time instilling rigorous discipline on prosecutors." 46
WHEREFORE, the appealed 21 May 2009 CA Decision affirming the 24 July 2007 RTC Joint Decision is SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Sammy Umipang y
Abdul is hereby ACQUITTED of the charges in Criminal Cases No. 14935-D-TG and No. 14936-D-TG on the ground of reasonable doubt. The Director of

the Bureau of Corrections is hereby ORDERED to immediately RELEASE accused-appellant from custody, unless he is detained for some other lawful
cause.
SO ORDERED.

Case #66 Chain of Custody


G.R. No. 190749

April 25, 2012

VALENTIN
ZAFRA
y
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECHOSA

and

EROLL

MARCELINO

REYES, Petitioners,

DECISION
PEREZ, J.:
For review before this Court is the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31713 dated 30 October 2009,1 affirming the decision of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 76, Malolos, Bulacan,2 which found petitioners Valentin Zafra y Dechosa (Zafra) and Eroll Marcelino y Reyes
(Marcelino) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Possession of Dangerous Drugs in violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 (the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and imposing on each of them the penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day as
the minimum term, to thirteen (13) years as maximum, and of fine of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00).
The Facts
The prosecution charged Zafra and Marcelino with violation of Section 11, Article II of RA No. 91653 before the RTC of Bulacan under the Information
below:
That on or about the 12th day of June, 2003, in the municipality of Balagtas, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without authority of law and legal justification, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
have in their possession and control dangerous drug consisting of two (2) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet of methylamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu) weighing 0.0614 gram, in conspiracy with one another.5
The prosecutions lone witness, SPO46 Apolinario Mendoza (SPO4 Mendoza), Chief of the Investigation and Drug Enforcement Unit of the Philippine
National Police of Balagtas, Bulacan, testified that on 12 January 2003, at around 4:30 in the afternoon, he conducted surveillance in front of a sarisari store at the corner of Miraflor Subdivision and P. Castro Street in Balagtas, Bulacan, due to reported drug trafficking in the area. SPO4 Mendoza
found there the group of Zafra, Marcelino, and a certain Marlon Daluz (Daluz) standing and facing each other. 7 In that position, he saw Zafra and
Marcelino holding shabu, while Daluz was holding an aluminum foil and a disposable lighter. 8 Seeing this illegal activity, SPO4 Mendoza singlehandedly apprehended them. He grabbed the shabu from the hands of Zafra and Marcelino, and confiscated the drug paraphernalia from Daluz.
Then, he ordered the three to lie down; he frisked them. Boarding a tricycle, he brought them to the Balagtas Police Station, 9 where he personally
marked the confiscated two (2) sachets of shabu, one with VSD, the initials of Valentin Zafra y Dechosa and the other with EMR, the initials of Eroll
Marcelino y Reyes.10
On the following day, 13 June 2003, SPO4 Mendoza brought the accused and the items to the crime laboratory for urine sampling and laboratory
examination, respectively.11 The test of the items resulted to positive presence of methylamphetamine hydrochloride.12
The RTC, Branch 76, Malolos, Bulacan, in a decision dated 11 June 2008, convicted Zafra and Marcelino for the crime of possession of shabu:
WHEREFORE, finding guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case No. 2297-M-2003, accused VALENTIN ZAFRA y DECHOSA and
accused EROLL MARCELINO y REYES are hereby CONVICTED for possession of sachets of methylamphetamine hydrochloride commonly known as
shabu, with a weight of 0.31 gram and 0.30 gram, respectively, which are classified as dangerous drugs in violation of Section 11, Article II of
Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002" and are each SENTENCED to suffer the IMPRISONMENT
of, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, TWELVE (12) YEARS AND ONE DAY, AS THE MINIMUM TERM, TO THIRTEEN (13) YEARS, AS THE MAXIMUM
TERM, and to pay the FINE of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P300,000.00).13

Daluz, on the other hand, who was charged of possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of Section 12 of RA No. 9165 pleaded guilty to the
charge and was released after serving his sentence of eight (8) months.14
Zafra and Marcelino appealed; but the CA affirmed in toto the RTC Decision:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is DENIED for lack of merit. Accordingly, the assailed 11 June 2008 Decision of the Court a quo
STANDS.15
Hence, this appeal on the following grounds: first, the arrest was unlawful; second, the prohibited drugs are inadmissible in evidence; third, Section 21
of RA No. 9165 was not complied with; and, finally, the prosecution failed to prove petitioners guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The Courts Ruling
We resolve to ACQUIT petitioners Zafra and Marcelino on the following grounds:
First, the prosecutions lone witness, SPO4 Mendoza,16 testified that, from a distance, he saw Zafra and Marcelino holding shabu by their bare hands,
respectively, while Daluz was holding an aluminum foil and a disposable lighter. 17 Seeing this illegal activity, he single-handedly apprehended
them.18 He grabbed the shabu from the hands of Zafra and Marcelino, and confiscated the drug paraphernalia from Daluz.
In his affidavit, however, SPO4 Mendoza stated, that:
Na, nitong nakaraang Hunyo 12, 2003 ng 4:30 ng hapon humigit kumulang, sa P. Casto St., Barangay Borol-1, Balagtas Bulacan, habang ako ay
nagsasagawa ng surveillance sa Suspected Drug Pusher sa nasabing lugar ay aking nakita ang tatlo (3) kalalakihan na nakatalikod sa isang corner
ng tindahan sa P. Castro St., na nakilala ko na sina Valentine D. Zafra @ Val, Eroll R. Marcelino @ Eroll, at Marlon B. Daluz @ Marlon na pawang mga
residente ng Borol-1, Balagtas, Bulacan.
Na, ako ay lumapit na naglalakad kina Valentine Zafra, Errol Marcelino at Marlon Daluz at sa aking paglapit sa kanilang tatlo ay aking nakita at
naaktuhang inabot ni Valentine Zafra kay Eroll Marcelino ang isang (1) plastic sachet ng shabu may timbang na 0.30 grams, at isa pang plastic
sachet ng shabu na si Marlon Daluz ay hawak ang isang disposable lighter at 2 piraso ng aluminum foil na inaayos na nilalagyan ng lupi at 7 piraso
ng empty plastic sachet. (Emphasis supplied)19
xxxx
On cross examination, SPO4 Mendoza testified that it was Zafra and not Daluz, who was holding the aluminum foil (contrary to his earlier testimony
that Zafra was holding shabu);20 that Daluz (whom he claimed during the direct examination to be holding the aluminum foil) and Marcelino were
holding handkerchiefs and on top of them were shabu;21 When the defense confronted SPO4 Mendoza about the inconsistency, he told the court
that his version during his direct testimony was the correct one.22
While, it is hornbook doctrine that the evaluation of the trial court on the credibility of the witness and the testimony is entitled to great weight and is
generally not disturbed upon appeal,23 such rule does not apply when the trial court has overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied any fact of
weight or substance.24 In the instant case, these circumstances are present, that, when properly appreciated, would warrant the acquittal of
petitioners.
Certainly, SPO4 Mendozas credibility has to be thoroughly looked into, being the only witness in this case. While in his affidavit, SPO4 Mendoza
claimed that he saw the sachet of shabu (0.30 gram) because Zafra was in the act of handing it to Marcelino, his testimony during the direct
examination reveals another version, that is, from a distance, he saw Zafra and Marcelino holding shabu, respectively, hence, he approached them
from behind and confiscated the shabu from both of them and the paraphernalia from Daluz. How he saw a 0.30 gram of shabu from a distance in
a busy street, baffles this Court. Asked, however, on cross examination, who among the three were holding the shabu and drug paraphernalia, SPO4
Mendoza failed to be consistent with his earlier testimony and pointed to Daluz as the one holding shabu with a handkerchief in his hand and Zafra
as the one in possession of drug paraphernalia. These inconsistencies are not minor ones, and, certainly, not among those which strengthens the

credibility of a witness. Possession of drug paraphernalia vis--vis shabu, are two different offenses under RA No. 9165. That Zafra was holding drug
paraphernalia and not shabu is material to this case, to the accusation against him, and to his defense.
Second, a reading of the RTC decision on this matter reveals that the conviction was arrived at upon reliance on the presumption of regularity in the
performance of Mendozas official duty.25
It is noteworthy, however, that presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions cannot by its lonesome overcome the constitutional
presumption of innocence.26 Evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt and nothing else can eclipse the hypothesis of guiltlessness. And this
burden is met not by bestowing distrust on the innocence of the accused but by obliterating all doubts as to his culpability.27
Third, SPO4 Mendoza was the lone arresting officer, who brought the petitioners to the police station, 28 who himself marked the confiscated pieces
of evidence sans witnesses, photographs, media, and in the absence of the petitioners. His colleagues were nowhere. 29 And, worse, he was the
same person who took custody of the same pieces of evidence, then, brought them on his own to the crime laboratory for testing.30 No inventory
was ever done;31 no inventory was presented in court.
The solo performance by SPO4 Mendoza of all the acts necessary for the prosecution of the offense is unexplained and puts the proof of corpus
delicti, which is the illegal object itself in serious doubt. No definite answer can be established regarding the question as to who possessed what at
the time of the alleged apprehension. More significantly, we are left in doubt whether not the two sachets of shabu allegedly seized from the
petitioners were the very same objects offered in court as the corpus delicti.
Prosecutions for illegal possession of prohibited drugs necessitates that the elemental act of possession of a prohibited substance be established with
moral certainty.32 The dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and the fact of its existence is vital to a judgment of
conviction.33 Essential therefore in these cases is that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond doubt. 34 Be that as it may, the mere
fact of unauthorized possession will not suffice to create in a reasonable mind the moral certainty required to sustain a finding of guilt. 35 More than
just the fact of possession, the fact that the substance illegally possessed in the first place is the same substance offered in court as exhibit must also
be established with the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to make a finding of guilt. 36 The chain of custody requirement performs this
function in that it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. 37
Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of RA No. 9165 reads:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her
representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be
required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.
Section 21(a) Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA No. 9165 reads:
(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically
inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or
his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall
be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be
conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending
officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under
justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team,
shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.
As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to
support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. 38 It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the
moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe

how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness' possession, the condition in which it was received
and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. 39 These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that
there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.40
The records readily raise significant doubts as to the identity of the sachets of shabu allegedly seized from Zafra and Marcelino. SPO4 Mendozas
claim that the two sachets of shabu presented in court were the same ones confiscated from the petitioners, cannot be taken at its face value,
solely on the presumption of regularity of ones performance of duty. SPO4 Mendoza blatantly broke all the rules established by law to safeguard the
identity of a corpus delicti. There was even no mention about the details of the laboratory examination of the allegedly seized drugs. To allow this to
happen is to abandon everything that has been said about the necessity of proving an unbroken chain of custody. SPO4 Mendoza cannot alone
satisfy the requirements in RA No. 9165 which is anchored on, expressly, the participation of several personalities and the execution of specified
documents.
And, while jurisprudence has refined the enumerated duties of an apprehending officer in a drug case and has thus described the equivalent
requirements for a proper chain of custody of the corpus delicti, still, the case at bar cannot pass the constitutional requirement of proof beyond
reasonable doubt.
We reiterate, that this Court will never waver in ensuring that the prescribed procedures in the handling of the seized drugs should be observed. In
People v. Salonga,41 we acquitted the accused for the failure of the police to inventory and photograph the confiscated items. We also reversed a
conviction in People v. Gutierrez,42 for the failure of the buy-bust team to inventory and photograph the seized items without justifiable grounds.
People v. Cantalejo43 also resulted in an acquittal because no inventory or photograph was ever made by the police.
We reached the same conclusions in the recent cases of People v. Capuno,44 People v. Lorena,45 and People v. Martinez.46
The present petition is the sum total of all the violations committed in the cases cited above.
Lest the chain of custody rule be misunderstood, we reiterate that non-compliance with the prescribed procedural requirements does not
necessarily render the seizure and custody of the items void and invalid; the seizure may still be held valid, provided that (a) there is a justifiable
ground for the non-compliance, and (b) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are shown to have been properly preserved. 47 These
conditions, however, were not met in the present case as the prosecution did not even attempt to offer any justification for the failure of SPO4
Mendoza to follow the prescribed procedures in the handling of the seized items.1wphi1 As we held in People v. De Guzman,48 the failure to follow
the procedure mandated under RA No. 9165 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations must be adequately explained. The justifiable ground for
the non-compliance must be proven as a fact. The Court cannot presume what these grounds are or that they even exist.
In our constitutional system, basic and elementary is the presupposition that the burden of proving the guilt of an accused lies on the prosecution
which must rely on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of the defense. 49 The rule is invariable whatever may be the reputation
of the accused, for the law presumes his innocence unless and until the contrary is shown. 50 In dubio pro reo.51 When moral certainty as to culpability
hangs in the balance, acquittal on reasonable doubt inevitably becomes a matter of right.52
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we REVERSE and SET ASIDE the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 30 October 2009 in CA-G.R. CR No. 31713.
Petitioners Valentin Zafra y Dechosa and Eroll Marcelino y Reyes are hereby ACQUITTED for the failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. They are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention, unless they are confined for another lawful cause.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Director of the Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City, for immediate implementation. The Director of
the Bureau of Corrections is directed to report to this Court the action taken within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision.
SO ORDERED.